Bodyguard charged after taking NJ reporter’s camera at April Ryan event
The bodyguard who New Jersey journalist Charlie Kratovil says took his video equipment while he was recording an anti-Trump CNN analyst's speech has been charged with a assault and theft.
Charlie Kratovil, the editor and publisher of New Brunswick Today, was dragged out of The Heldrich Hotel on Aug. 3 after he refused to stop video-recording CNN analyst April D. Ryan’s speech during the New Jersey Parent Summit. “When I speak, I don’t have news covering my speech,” Ryan told the crowd as Kratovil's camera was booted.
Kratovil said he had permission to be at the event, which he had obtained in an Aug. 2 email from Juan Melli at Mercury Public Affairs, which handled the media invites.
A bodyguard hired by Ryan named Joel Morris grabbed a hold of Kratovil’s camera and moved it to the lobby, according to a criminal complaint in the case. The report says Kratovil said the guard “utilized some kind of compliance hold and subsequently caused pain to Kratovil’s left wrist,” but Kratovil declined medical attention at the scene.
Morris gave the camera, tripod and microphone to hotel staff as he escorted Kratovil from the hotel, according to the criminal complaint. Kratovil later got his equipment back.
In summons issued on Monday and provided by Kratovil, Morris was charged with assault for allegedly grabbing Kratovil's left arm and twisting it behind his back, causing injury to his forearm and shoulder. He also faces harassment and theft.
Morris, who lives in Country Club Hills, Illinois has a appearance scheduled in Middlesex County Superior Court for Sept. 12, according to the complaint.
"This was more than just an assault on me," Kratovil said in a statement sent to New Jersey 101.5 Monday. "This was an assault on freedom of the press, and April Ryan should have immediately condemned the use of violence against a journalist. Because Ms. Ryan has failed to publicly address or apologize for her role in this ugly incident, I am now seeking legal counsel to initiate proceedings that will hold her accountable for the unacceptable and illegal behavior of her employee."
According to a tweet on Monday by Ryan she has been on vacation. The tweet did not disclose how long she had been off.
Spokesman Matthew Frankel, who represents the organizers of the Aug. 3 event, and Ryan's spokeswoman Pam Redwood-Harris at SMG Speakers both declined comment on the charges.
Kratovil is faulting Ryan for the way her bodyguard handled the situation, which has drawn attention because the correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks has made a name for herself by criticizing Trump’s rhetoric against journalists. Her 2018 book, “Under Fire,” is about how reporters are increasingly under attack.
Ryan has said she had to hire a bodyguard because of the death threats she’s received as a result of standing up to Trump. Last year, she said that then-White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders should foot the bill.
Kratovil is no right-wing supporter of Trump. He’s run for mayor of Hub City as an independent and has demonstrated outside the office of U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J. 6th District, to call for impeachment proceedings. But now his story has been covered by Fox News and is being shared by critics of the media and supporters of the president.
“My comments have been respectful. I came to the event out of respect for her,” Kratovil said. “I don’t doubt that she needs qualified protection. But the person she brought with her that night was not behaving appropriately and that’s intolerable.”
Ryan has not commented on the incident in New Brunswick and she blocked a New Jersey 101.5 reporter on Twitter on Wednesday after asking her to respond to Kratovil’s tweets about the event.
— With previous reporting by Sergio Bichao
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