JMU paper raided, photos seized

Harrisonburg Commonwealth's Attorney Marsha Garst, bolstered by a search warrant and at least six or seven cops, shows up April 16 at the James Madison University student newspaper, the Breeze, and demands all photos taken of the Springfest riot the previous weekend. Garst threatens to seize all computers, which would essentially shut down the paper, if the photos weren't turned over, the Breeze reports.

Breeze editor-in-chief Katie Thisdell complied, but says she believes the warrant violates the federal Privacy Protection Act that prohibits law enforcement from seizing news reporting materials for criminal investigations.

The Student Press Law Center is representing the Breeze and its lawyers reached an agreement with the prosecutor to temporarily seal the 926 confiscated photos.

UPDATE 2:30pm: The Society of Professional Journalists condemns the raid and sends a letter to Garst expressing the organization's outrage and demanding the return of all materials taken.

UPDATE 1:45PM April 20: Spelling of Katie Thisdell's name corrected.


As a JMU Duke who is born and raised in CVille I can honestly say that this place is on the down and out. Quick side note,one thing no one mentions is that during springfest the police acted completely reactive instead of proactive. There were no cops there early in the day (there is usually a ton) until things got out of control. The only police prescence seen were those in riot gear. The students think the raid is a total violation and I just can't wait to get home for summer.....the vibe here is not good at all, student body realtions with the administration and poice have hit rock bottom and honestly cannot get worse.

Those darn search warrants. A magistrate or judge issued it. It's a valid court order when executed. Only thing the paper can do is comply and then use lawyers to try to get the items back.


from the linked article:

"Sophomore nursing major Matt Hill said the police should investigate to the maximum extent of the law.

ââ?¬Å?I don’t know the law, but if it doesn’t violate students’ rights, they have right to take the photos,” Hill said. "

Stick to nursing. You certainly DON'T know the law. The police are able to just raid and seize whatever they want? The affidavit is sealed?

What the heck is going on up in Harrisonburg? Sounds like Barney Fifedom....

I wont be happy until Marsha Garst is in handcuffs along with her followers . I want felony charges on her just like they would put on kids for throwing snowballs. Lets Remember they want all those criminals at the block party prosecuted , well by GOD if we want zero tolerance for breaking the law lets see zero tolerance Marsha.

I have always heard ignorance is no excuse for the law !

THIS POLICE STATE mentality is out of control in our general area .

All those chicken farms in Harrisonburg make the place smell terrible. Why anyone would want to go to school there I'll never understand...

Depending on who wants to stir this up, there could be an interesting court case. At a large university, there's bound to be enough interested parties to light this up....

The police should have asked for copies of the photos and the paper should have complied forthwith. The paper has a right to protect sources but not hide evidence.

The "raid" was wrong on all levels and heads should roll.

This story needs huge coverage! I'm blown away by reading this. Were there other media agencies on site that day with photos of the "riot"? Have they been raided by police?

Please God, tell me....

.... why does this come as a surprise to anybody?

Repeat after me..... POLICE STATE. Weed out and destroy anything that might implicate wrongdoing by any city, county or state agency??? That's the only possible motive that pops into my head right now.

quote: "THIS POLICE STATE mentality is out of control in our general area."

It's out of control nationwide! They get by with anything they want until somebody has the money and nerve to sue 'em.

And serving a search warrant is legal. If it's not serve within 15 days it has to be returned to the Crcuit Curt Cerk. If it is served. Then it has to be filed with the Circuit Court Clerk within 3 days. It has to included an itemized list of what was siezed. The search warrant also becomes public record at that point. You can't see what was siezed but you can see the Affidavit for the Search Warrant and the actual Search Warrant.

what possible legal pretext would justify the raid of a newspaper?

This reads like something that would happen in Iran.

Zero tolerance at it's best.....They probably could have gotten the same thing from YouTube...LOL!!

Guess we will have to see how this one shakes down.....will be interesting to see the outcome.

Gasbag, where are you!!!

You know there are going to be arguments filed on this one.

Unless there's a claim that the paper's photographers did something illegal, I'd think a simple subpoena would suffice, but that could be challenged prior to compliance. Search warrant seems necessary only if Garst knew her legal claims to these pics wouldn't stand up in court. My question is this: did the cops seize every copy of every pic? A subpoena would have only entitled them to a copy of each. Maybe there's pics of police misconduct they don't want seeing the light of day? Just a guess.

You didnt turn on the self-important man signal on the roof, JBO. He'll show up once you do

Interesting reading and I can see loopholes the CA can jump through.....take a peek and tell me what you guys think!

A recent poll showed 70% of republicans fearful that they are in imminent danger of having their rights taken away, yet here's Marsha Garst arguably doing just that and I bet you hear not a peep out of the right wing/tea party because she's cracking down on the "liberal media". And the fact that her two campaign contributions on record have gone to Matthew Lohr and Common Sense PAC

c'mon Marsha... REALLY?

Oh well, just to play the game for **** . . . here's a peep from someone who votes Republican or Libertarian, depending:

It's incidents like this that MAKE people fearful of having their rights taken away. IMO Garth's actions are completely outrageous. If she had tried that with any press organ other than a student newspaper, she would have had her figurative head on a figurative pike on the next front page.

The saving grace here is that the Student Press Law Center will humiliate her in court. I hope the press catches the details.

Yes, but can the "Breeze" afford to take this thing to a higher court? That's the problem, and the commonwealth knows it when they orchestrate stunts like this.

It's all in the way the story's spun. The prosecutor has already returned the photographs. Yawn.

Yup, Marsha Garst is obviously embarrassed by the police response. So her solution - attack the messenger. Pathetic.

Are the police trying to keep pictures, of what they were doing, out of the news?