Arrested journalist says he was only trying to do job

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Police say a West Virginia journalist was arrested Tuesday after yelling questions at U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price.

Price and senior white House aide Kellyanne Conway visited the state Capitol in Charleston on Tuesday to learn about efforts to fight opioid addiction in a state with the nation’s highest overdose death rate.

Capital police said in a criminal complaint (Read the criminal complaint here) 54-year-old Daniel Ralph Heyman was yelling questions at the two. It says he tried to breach Secret Service security and had to be removed from a hallway at the Capitol.

He was charged with willful disruption of governmental processes, a misdemeanor.

Heyman, who works for Public News Service, says he was arrested after he tried to ask whether domestic violence would be considered a pre-existing condition under the proposed health care overhaul.

“I’m not sure why, but at some point, I think they decided I was just too persistent in asking this question and trying to do my job and so they arrested me,” he said during a news conference that was posted on Facebook by the American Civil Liberties Union.

His attorney, Tim DePiero, called it a “highly unusual case.”

He said Heyman’s only intent was to ask a couple of questions.

“I’ve never had anyone get in trouble criminally for talking too loud,” he said. “We just don’t understand why he got arrested. It just seems way over the top.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia issued the following statement this morning:

“This a dangerous time in our country. Freedom of the press is being eroded every day. We have a President who calls the media “fake news” and resists transparency at every turn. And today, a reporter was arrested for trying to ask a question to members of President Trump’s administration. Mr. Heyman’s arrest is a blatant attempt to chill an independent, free press. The charges against him are outrageous, and they must be dropped immediately.”

“By asking Tom Price and Kellyanne Conway whether domestic violence was considered a preexisting condition under President Trump’s healthcare proposal, Dan Heyman was doing his job as a reporter. He was fulfilling that sacred role of the media in a democratic state of holding our elected officials accountable regarding the vital issues of the day. And for that, he was arrested.”

“What President Trump’s administration is forgetting, and what the Capitol Police forgot today, is that the government works for us. Today was a dark day for democracy. But the rule of law will prevail. The First Amendment will prevail. The American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia stands ready to fight any attempt by the government to infringe upon our First Amendment rights.”