Did NBC News lie about the reporter that got caught stalking jurors in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial? When Judge Bruce Schroeder sanctioned NBC for its attempt to identify the jury and their residences, the network claimed that the reporter was a free-lancer acting on his own and without the network’s knowledge. Police released body camera footage of the detaining of James Morrison, as well as a call to NBC News booking producer Irene Byon, in which she confirmed the intent to trail the jury.
Note the name shown on Morrison’s phone in the video:
The Kenosha Police Department in Wisconsin has released video of the police traffic stop of an NBC News freelancer who was questioned by officers for following a bus containing the #KyleRittenhouse jury. pic.twitter.com/qHH5Ip7jsy
— Law&Crime Network (@LawCrimeNetwork) November 30, 2021
Morrison’s story was quickly backed up by Irene Byon, an employee of NBC News in New York who was called during the traffic stop as seen in another clip from the body cam.
“We’re trying to figure out what’s going on here, why you have a reporter or a producer following vehicles out here,” Officer Jones says before Byon identifies herself as “Irene, a booking producer with NBC News.”
“We were just trying to– respectfully just trying to– see if it’s possible to find any leads about the case, and so we were– we were just keeping our distance, just to see where people involved in the trial are positioned,” Byon tells Jones. “By no means were we trying to get in contact with any of the jury members or whoever is in the car, we just were trying to see where key players in the trial may be at,” she claims.
Much of this came out on the day Schroeder sanctioned NBC, but the media didn’t exactly pull a muscle connecting these dots. Instead, they largely covered it as a temper tantrum by a biased judge that rushed to judgment against an entire network over the actions of a single stringer. It certainly looks like Schroeder was better informed than most media outlets, and certainly better informed than their coverage.
How many media outlets will have corrections going up this afternoon for their previous accusations that Schroeder jumped to conclusions? I’d put the number at roughly zero.
Certainly don’t expect any corrections or even explanations from NBC, even if Mark Hyman comes to the correct conclusion about NBC’s actions:
@NBCNews caught lying. It previously claimed ignorance of an alleged freelancer caught following the Rittenhouse jury bus. Police body cam video captures NBC News admitting it staked out exits from the courthouse to ID the bus and direct an employee to follow it.
— MarkHyman (@MarkHyman) December 1, 2021
Indeed. As for Morrison, the police may have saved him from committing a felony, Law & Crime pointed out:
“Ultimately, there was no arrest for jury tampering because police interrupted any opportunity to do so,” said Kenosha Police Lt. Joseph Nosalik in an email to Law&Crime.
Nosalik’s email insinuates that criminal activity was potentially afoot and was timely thwarted, but Wisconsin’s criminal code doesn’t even contain a charge for “jury tampering.” The closest criminal statute is “communicating with jurors,” which Byon and Morrison explicitly said they were not attempting to do. Here’s the statute:
946.64 — Communicating with jurors.
Whoever, with intent to influence any person, summoned or serving as a juror, in relation to any matter which is before that person or which may be brought before that person, communicates with him or her otherwise than in the regular course of proceedings in the trial or hearing of that matter is guilty of a Class I felony.
Bottom line: no crime was alleged for the pure act of following the jury bus.
No crime, but a lot of egg on the collective face of NBC News. And for that matter, all the other outlets who reported on this by framing it as a story about a power-mad judge.