A federal appeals court has ruled that it is perfectly clear under the U.S. Constitution that journalists cannot be jailed for asking officials questions.
Article by Bob Unruh from our news partners at WND News Center.
And that, the 2-1 majority in the case brought by Priscilla Villarreal said, is what happened to her.
The decision revived the woman’s lawsuit against Laredo, Webb County and others.
“If the First Amendment means anything, it surely means that a citizen journalist has the right to ask a public official a question, without fear of being imprisoned. yet that is exactly what happened here: Priscilla Villarreal was put in jail for asking a police officer a question,” the opinion said.
The background is that she is a “citizen journalist” and reports on events in Laredo on social media. Frequently, she’s irritated local police with her coverage and comments, so there was little love in the establishment for her work.
Then one incident developed in which she published the names of people involved in a car accident – before the victims’ identities had formally been released by authorities.
That violated a state law that later was found unconstitutional, but at the time she was jailed for her offense.
“If that is not an obvious violation of the Constitution, it’s hard to imagine what would be. And as the Supreme Court has repeatedly held, public officials are not entitled to qualified immunity for obvious violations of the Constitution,” said the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
She had sued after her arrest, but a lower court had thrown it out. It’s now been reinstated.
The court commented on her blunt reporting: “Her reporting frequently includes colorful – and often unfiltered – commentary,” the judges noted.
A report at Courthouse News explained Villarreal “has reported on everything from local crime to public corruption by officials in the border city of Laredo under the name La Gordiloca.”
The complications with her work surfaced when she was reporting on a suicide, and a car crash. She got into trouble because state law “makes it a Class 3 felony to seek and receive information from an official that has not yet been made available to the public.”
She had obtained the names, then asked a police officer to confirm them. He did.
That was the law later found unconstitutional and dropped.
The effect of the appeals court decision is that her claims of wrongful arrest and retaliation now have been resurrected.
The ruling came from U.S. Circuit Judge James Ho, a Donald Trump appointee.
U.S. Circuit Judge James Graves, a Barack Obama appointee, joined Ho in the majority.
One Sick Day Proves We Need More Voices in Truthful Media
On October 19, I was sick. It crossed my mind that I had finally gotten the ‘rona, but my wife’s cream of chicken soup and a few extra hours of sleep into mid-afternoon had be back up and running after a sleepless night before.
When I finally stumbled over to my computer in the evening, I was met with a deluge of concern from readers. They asked what had happened as only one article had been posted that day. Generally, we post between 10-20 daily between all of the sites, not included curated and aggregated content. Seeing that we’d only posted my super-early morning article before taking the rest of the day off had readers assuming the worst.
We have a wonderful and talented group of writers who volunteer their time for the sites and their readers. Sharing their amazing perspectives has always been a blessing to us because we cannot afford to hire anyone at this time. But having great writers is meaningless if we don’t have great editors, or at least one additional. My wife helps me read and edit stories from time to time, but I’m a one-man show when it comes to getting the stories posted.
Whenever I highlight our desperate need for donations, I note that we do not receive money from Google ads even though most in conservative media are beholden. I often ambiguously note that the money donated will help us grow. Today, I’m highlighting a specific need. We must get an editor to help take some of the load and to expand on our mission of spreading the truth to the world. One sick day proved that.
The great news is that there is no shortage of people who CAN help. I am emailed variations of resumes every week by people who are much smarter than I am. As much as I’d love to hire some of them, we simply cannot. That takes money and as blessed as we’ve been to receive donations and collect ad money (though not from Google or Facebook), we have still fallen short.
Those who have the means, PLEASE consider donating. We have the standard Giving Fuel option and people can donate through PayPal. We are also diving into what we believe is extremely disruptive technology at LetsGo.finance, the world’s first major donation portal for crypto. I’ll be talking a lot more about them in the near future. Those who prefer Bitcoin can send to my address here: 3A1ELVhGgrwrypwTJhPwnaTVGmuqyQrMB8
We can get the voices out there and we’re willing to shine a spotlight on new talent. We just need the resources to make it happen. If you can help, we would be extremely grateful.
Thank you and God bless!
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