Remember when MSNBC got banned from the Kenosha County Courthouse in the middle of the Rittenhouse trial after an individual working on behalf of NBC News was pulled over for running a red light while allegedly trailing a bus carrying jurors? Well now we have a better picture of how things went down thanks to footage from a body cam worn by the officer who pulled over the NBC News freelancer-turned red light runner.
As Julio covered while on the ground in Kenosha in mid-November, the situation unfolded amid a number of incidents that suggested individuals were trying to identify jurors for what were presumed to be bad intentions. The Rittenhouse trial judge took swift action and banned MSNBC from the courthouse to send a message that media or other harassment of the jury wasn't going to be tolerated as its members deliberated.
Last night a person who is alleging to be affiliated with a national media outlet was briefly taken into custody and issued several traffic related citations. Police suspect this person was trying to photograph jurors. This incident is being investigated much further.— Kenosha Police Dept. (@KenoshaPolice) November 18, 2021
It was pretty obvious that there was no coincidence someone working for NBC news was caught running a red light behind a vehicle transporting jurors. But the body cam video released Tuesday reveals plainly what NBC News was up to when they were caught in the act.
In one clip from the body cam footage, a Kenosha police officer who identifies himself as Officer Jones approaches the vehicle as the driver — identified earlier by the judge as James Morrison — says he's a producer working with NBC News when asked what he was doing in Kenosha.
Officer Jones: "Were you following a vehicle?"
Morrison: "I was trying to see– I was being called by New York going– maybe– these are the people you need to follow. But I don't know. I was trying to..."
Officer Jones: "Trying to what?"
Morrison: "Just do what they told me to do."
Officer Jones: "New York told you to follow a vehicle?"
Officer Jones: "Your offices in New York or what?"
Morrison: "That's right."
Officer Jones: "How did they know about this vehicle?"
Morrison: "I don't know. I mean it was discreet, I wasn't like gonna talk to anybody or anything, just trying to find a location, that's all."
As Jones told his fellow officers what Morrison was saying, another can be heard asking "So we've got news media telling him to follow our unmarked vehicles?"
At this point, according to what Morrison told Jones, NBC News in New York — not some affiliate in Chicago or Milwaukee and not some freelancer of his own ambition — made the decision to follow jurors in the middle of deliberations in order to apparently gather more information about them and their movements.
WATCH ?? BodyCam Footage of NBC Producer Following Kyle Rittenhouse Jury Vehicle— Insider Paper (@TheInsiderPaper) 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.
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
Interestingly, Byon was the first one to specifically mention the jury in the course of the traffic stop captured on the body cam recording — Officer Jones hadn't prompted her as to what kind of vehicle Morrison appeared to be following nor who may be in it.
Immediately following the dust-up over someone working on their network's coverage of the trial being pulled over for allegedly tailing the jury transport, NBC News released a statement saying that "While the traffic violation took place near the jury van, the freelancer never contacted or intended to contact the jurors during deliberations, and never photographed or intended to photograph them."
So basically NBC News admitted they got caught "near" the jury van without including the important note that NBC News staff had instructed an NBC freelancer to follow the jury. But because the freelancer was caught in the act, the full scope of NBC News' plan and what the network intended to do with information about jurors' movements remains unknown. That said, it's unlikely any identifying information would have been used to send them fruit baskets for a job well done or encourage the public to personally thank them for their verdict.
Join the conversation as a VIP Member