Miller Security Team Detains Journalist
Republican US Senate candidate Joe Miller's security team detained online newsmagazine Alaska Dispatch editor Tony Hopfinger at a town hall meeting.
Original article posted Oct. 13, 2010
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTVA-CBS 11 News) Republican US Senate candidate Joe Miller's security team detained online newsmagazine Alaska Dispatch editor and co-owner Tony Hopfinger at a town hall meeting Sunday, after Hopfinger approached Miller with questions about his Fairbanks North Star Borough employment.
After inviting the public on his website and Facebook pages, about one hundred people showed up to Miller's meeting at Central Middle School.
Immediately after the meeting ended, Miller left without taking any media questions.
On Monday Miller held a press conference saying he would no longer answer questions about his personal life.
"We've drawn a line in the sand," Miller said Monday. "You can ask me about background. You can ask me about personal issues. I'm not going to answer. I'm not. This is about the issues."
As Miller left Sunday, Hopfinger says he approached the candidate.
"Joe was walking out in the hallway and I wanted to ask him about some issues with his former employment at the North Star Borough," Hopfinger says. "I had a flip cam and asked questions."
The Alaska Dispatch, Fairbanks Daily News Miner and Anchorage Daily News are suing the Fairbanks North Star Borough for Miller's employment records. Hopfinger says he was trying to ask Miller about his refusal to answer accusations from former Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor Jim Whitaker.
Whitaker says Miller was almost fired for using borough computers to try and win the state Republican Party's chairmanship.
"Miller started walking back the direction he came from," Hopfinger says. "At that point suddenly, I was surrounded by more security guys, supporters putting their chest into me. My defensive space was violated. I was ready to walk out. I was grabbed, thrown down to the end of the hallway, handcuffed, thrown against wall and 'under arrest.' They wouldn't identify who they were."
Miller's security team works for DropZone Security. The company's owner William Fulton says Hopfinger was given several warnings to leave because he became aggressive.
"At any point and time he could have stopped and walked away, and he chose not to," Fulton says. "When somebody got pushed into locker, I saw that it happened, and I believe he did it on purpose. But he believes he didn't. Either way he got arrested for trespassing, because the situation was too dangerous to allow him to be there."
"You got to understand when suddenly they are all on me, and I'm hitting a lot of people by collateral, I don't have any control of the situation," Hopfinger responded. "When someone grabbed me and manhandled me I'm going to fight back on that one. I don't know who these guys are. They are not cops."
Hopfinger was then put in handcuffs, which the security team called a citizen's arrest.
"They said this was trespassing. That this was a private event," Hopfinger says. "And when I was here early with the event, I don't recall being told this was a private event closed to the media. So I was just doing my job as I normally do."
"He was at a private event," Fulton says. "He was asked to leave. Told he was trespassing. He got violent. And we arrested him."
Anchorage Police Lt. Dave Parker says the event was private since it was a political rally held in a facility paid for by the Miller campaign.
APD officers conducted several interviews and did not honor the public citizen's arrest, releasing Hopfinger. The case has now been forwarded to the city prosecutor who will determine whether trespassing charges should be filed.
Late Sunday night, Miller released the following statement:
"While I've gotten used to the blog Alaska Dispatch's assault on me and my family, I never thought that it would lead to a physical assault. It's too bad that this blogger would take advantage of a "Town Hall" meeting to create a publicity stunt just two weeks before the election."
The Miller campaign was required by the facility to provide security at the event. Even though Joe had spent nearly an hour freely answering questions from those in attendance, the blogger chased Miller to the exit after the event concluded in an attempt to create and then record a 'confrontation' with the candidate.
While Miller attempted to calmly exit the facility, the blogger physically assaulted another individual and made threatening gestures and movements towards the candidate. At that point the security personnel had to take action and intervened and detained the irrational blogger, whose anger overcame him.
It is also important to note that the security personnel did not know that the individual they detained was a blogger who reporting on the campaign. To them, the blogger appeared irrational, angry and potentially violent.
From thealaskadispatch.com: "Alaska Dispatch, an online newsmagazine, was founded by Alaska journalists (and husband and wife) Tony Hopfinger and Amanda Coyne in their spare bedroom in 2008. In mid-2009, Alice Rogoff, a longtime supporter of journalism and former chief financial officer of U.S. News and World Report, became the majority owner of Alaska Dispatch. She is committed to funding the website until it becomes profitable. An aggressive timeline calls for that to happen in less than three years. To that end, Alaska Dispatch has expanded beyond Hopfinger and Coyne, employing a three-person sales team and 10 seasoned journalists, two of whom have been on teams that have won Pulitzer Prizes.