October 24, 2007

Miami Herald Drops the Ball; Police Department Caught LYING. UPDATED Nov 16

Well, the Miami Herald screwed the pooch, big time.

Jeff Weinsier was arrested Tuesday outside an area High School. And that's about the only fact that the Herald got right.

It starts with the sensationalistic headline:
"TV reporter carrying gun at school is arrested"
I have a couple of problems with this headline: first, Weinsier was in front of the school, not AT it. Second, it implies that the gun was a factor in the arrest; and it was not.

How can I know this? I've seen the video tape; the raw, unedited tape that shows the entire incident right up to Weinsier's arrest.

Go and watch the tape, then continue reading.

All right? Up to speed? Let's dissect the article:

WPLG-ABC 10 reporter Jeffrey Weinsier, a loaded .38 revolver tucked in his waistband, was arrested Tuesday at Miami Central High after he was repeatedly warned against trespassing on school property, police said.
First, he wasn't warned about trespassing, because he wasn't trespassing. He was on a sidewalk. He was ordered to move across the street. No reason given. After he was taken into custody, it was revealed that he was indeed carrying a concealed weapon - and a concealed weapon permit. More on the gun later.

Weinsier, 40, was charged with trespassing on school property with a weapon, possession of a firearm on school grounds and resisting officers without violence.

Other reporters had been at the school to report the story of a Central High School math teacher who was arrested for attacking Homestead Air Reserve Base in a failed ''suicide-by-cop'' attempt.
All this is true. Of course, he wasn't on school grounds at the time, so that charge is bogus, but that's what he was charged with. Moving on.

Schools police say Weinsier -- an investigative reporter -- repeatedly ignored warnings to not step on the school's grass, said Detective Ed Torrens, a spokesman.
and further down:
Torrens said he believed other TV stations' cameramen only filmed Weinsier being arrested on the sidewalk, but failed to show footage of him stepping on the grass.
As we see in the video, at no time was Weinsier on the grass: in fact, it would be impossible for him to get on the grass without climbing a pretty thick hedge, first. He wasn't on the grass when the cops approached him, and he wasn't on the grass when they finally arrested him.

And if, as the Police Department claims, he was standing on the grass, why didn't the police tell him that's why he was being asked to move across the street? Weinsier asked for a reason; the cops refused to give one. At no time did they cops say "we saw you on the grass, that's trespassing." Not once did they say that; all they would repeat is "We kindly ask that you move across the street!"

Weinsier was clearly on a public sidewalk, he clearly wasn't on the grass when the police asked him to leave, and he clearly wasn't on the grass when they arrested him.

No, he was on a sidewalk. And in fact, he was on a side walk full of PEOPLE. Hundreds of people, and only one person was arrested: the TV reporter.

And do you know what? Weinsier DID cross the street. It was after the cops demanded that his camera man turn off the camera. The cops are filmed grabbing the camera, and taking Weinsier's microphone away. The camerman starts moving across the street, and Weinsier points to the mic and says "You need to give that back. The cop does so, and Weinsier and his crew move across the street. We can hear Weinsier call the station while the camera rolls tape of the school letting out.

A few minutes later, Weinsier and the camera head back across the street, having been in contact with their station and the school's Public Information Officer. Again, the cops intercept him and tell him he must go across the street. Weinsier reports that his station manager just confirmed with Police Information Officer Ed Torrans that the crew could be on the sidewalk.

We just spoke to your public information officer, he says that we can be here. It's all right for us to be here..

Fat Cop:
My sargent is going to be here in a moment...you just

your officer, Ed Goren, said that we could...

Fat Cop:
I don't know any Ed Goran, Ed Goran's not the public information officer..

Yes, he is

Fat Cop:
...our p.i.o. is Ed TORRAN-

yeah, THAT guy.

The cops start pushing Weinsier, telling him that he has to go across the street. The reporter told the cops to stop touching him, that they didn't have the right to touch him and push him around.

You do realize, the camera's getting all of this.

Fat Cop:
do you know what Custodial touch is? I don't care about cameras, custodial custody, I can get you off my block if I want. ....I am telling you, ON THAT CAMERA, YOU are within 500 feet of a school, and I am giving you a lawful order to get off this sidewalk.

After FatCop blathers on for a few more minutes, Weinsier flatly states "I am not going." And the cops arrest him at that point.

Again, I must point out that at no time did the cop mention grass, or standing on it. He said a lot of other stuff; why not "Hey, you were on the grass, and that's trespassing!"

The only reason I can think of is that it was because Weinsier was never on the grass at all. Makes sense, doesn't it? None of the evidence puts him on the grass, so he wasn't on it. So much for the 'grass story.'

Now, about the gun: Weinsier had a carry permit. He got it after getting death threats in the aftermath of a story he covered earlier this year.

So what does the Herald say about it?

Weinsier holds a concealed weapons permit, but state law prohibits anyone from carrying a gun on school grounds, Torrens said.

''Miami-Dade Schools Police is a very effective force and they take any incident of anyone bringing a weapon to campus seriously,'' said Miami-Dade schools spokesman John Schuster.

Let's get back to the tape, because this is a serious charge: hmm, no, Weinsier was never on School Property at any time. Funny, the Herald doesn't point that out. You know what else we never see? The gun. We never see it, and the cops never once mention it.

No, instead of addressing the facts, they quote Schuster. And THAT quote makes it look like the School Cops caught Weinsier bringing a gun onto school grounds; neither of which is true: he wasn't on school grounds, and they didn't take him into custody because of the gun. The FACT is that they only found the gun AFTER they arrested him.

The Herald has been unforgivably sloppy with their work on this story. Frankly, I think it borders on slander.

And the cops? Wayyyy out of line.

A late update; all charges agains Weinsier were dismissed. Assistant State AttorneyMaggie Gerson reached the same conclusion as I did, upon viewing the tape.

"...due to the fact that the defendant was not on school property, it cannot be said that the defendant was trespassing. Since the defendant was not trespassing, anything that was found after he was arrested will be suppressed as a matter of law."

She also waved off a bunch of lesser charges the school cops had laid on Weinsier; since the orders he was given to go across the street were not lawful, he can't be charged with failure to obey a lawful order. The sidewalk isn't school property, and even though it's in the 500 foot safety zone, Weinsier had a legitimate reason to be inside of it. And even if the school police HAD a reason to keep him across the street (which they didn't), the fact that they weren't keeping EVERYONE across the street negates their action. Most damning: school had been dismissed by the time the cop illegally arrested Weinsier.

No mention in the Herald's coverage of this action about the "facts" they reported earlier.


  1. "fat cop?" Real professional blog.

  2. "Professional blog" is an oxymoron.

    And look at the video: the cop is fat. Hence the label "fat cop." At least I didn't label him "dickhead," although I considered it.

  3. The best part is when the reporter mention the PIO and mispronounced the last name ever so slightly, and the fatcop said "I dunno who that is." Then when he [fatcop] says the name of his PIO, it sounds just about the same as the name the reporter said. Maybe in the heat of the moment we all get a little stupid.

    On the other hand, you could hear Jeff tell the photog that he thought they were going to arrest him, and if they did, he was to get it on camera. Kinda makes me wonder a little if he didn't *want* to get arrested. I mean, I had no idea who he was before this blew up. That little bit of controversy may have glossed up his career a little... all in the name of journalism and first amendment rights.

  4. Weinsier has already made a name for himself; earlier this year he shook up the restaurant establishment when he showed that many of them had not been inspected regularly, many of those that had had failed those inspections. And some of the inspections weren't executed properly.
    While I agree that he probably could have avoided being arrested, the point is that he should not have been arrested for trespassing. The cops could have ALSO avoided this mess, and in fact were responsible to avoid it.

  5. I bet the "fat cop" is the anonymous poster, granted that's merely speculation... I'd probably have actually pulled the cop's name since it's all public record.

    Regardless, I admire what Jeff did. He defended his first amendment right as well as everyone else's. Its the duty of journalists to not only report on what is happening in the world, but also defend the amendments written in OUR constitution. He's truly an amazing reporter and people should keep an eye on him, in fact many of the reporters there are.