Police violated state law by confiscating Williston reporter’s cell phone
WILLISTON, N.D. - A Williston reporter’s cell phone was returned by law enforcement after it was determined that it violated state law.
A North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation agent says Williston Trending Topics News Radio Live’s Tom Simon was reporting on closed-door board meetings that led to the departure of superintendent Jeff Thake that was subject to police investigation, so they demanded he turn over his phone and sources.
They said they had a warrant, but Simon is deemed protected by the state’s shield law that states a journalist’s phone can*not* be confiscated without a court hearing determining if withholding that information would interfere with justice.
The phone was returned to Simon, who says it wasn’t just an attack on him.
“The public has a right to know, and they need reporters to get the information so they can know, so when you take an attack on a reporter, you’re attacking the public,” said Simon.
State Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem’s office reviewed the matter, saying: “The phone was lawfully taken pursuant to a valid search warrant issued by a judge. Thereafter, the agent did not download or inspect the contents of the phone but instead sought additional guidance on how to proceed. The attorney general advised the agent that in light of a state statute that requires a further court warrant to view the contents of the phone in cases like this, if the county state’s attorney decided not to proceed with the required notice and hearing to obtain that warrant, the phone must be returned to its owner, which has been done.”
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