CHARLESTON -– A television reporter has filed a complaint against a Kanawha County magistrate, alleging Tim Halloran wrongly barred him from covering an arraignment.
Mike Waterhouse, WSAZ's news operations manager, said he tried to cover Charleston police officer Sean Patrick's arraignment on Friday, but Halloran denied him access to the courtroom.
Patrick is charged in Virginia with trying to solicit sex with a person he believed was a 14-year-old girl over the Internet.
Waterhouse said Halloran has a history of not allowing cameras or recording devices in the courtroom, so, initially, he went to the courtroom without his camera.
"When I went inside, I told the security guard that I was going to magistrate court for an arraignment, and he told me they were instructed by the magistrate to lock the doors and not let anyone back in the courtroom," Waterhouse said in an e-mail to The West Virginia Record. "The guard then radioed back to the bailiff, who met me in the lobby and told me the same information."
Waterhouse said he then figured the only way he was going to get any substance on Patrick's arrest was to shoot footage of police walking the suspect to a cruiser in a garage.
"I then put the camera back in the car and walked back inside the courthouse to see if I could get information about the hearing," Waterhouse said. "The guard again radioed to the bailiff, who told the magistrate. Magistrate Halloran called the guard and asked to speak with me. He told me he would not release the paperwork -- that I'd have to pick up a copy of it Monday from the clerk's office. I then started to explain my right to get the information and he hung up on me and I left the courthouse."
Waterhouse said he filed a complaint Monday against Halloran with the state Judicial Investigations Commission.
"I filed it because I believe my right to attend a public court hearing was denied by Magistrate Tim Halloran," Waterhouse said. "I do not believe any members of the public would have been permitted inside the hearing, either. By filing this complaint, I hope to ensure there is open access to our judicial system for both the media and the public."
Steve Canterbury, administrator of the state Supreme Court, said courtrooms are open to the public and if a judge wants it closed, they have to give a reason.
Halloran, in declining an interview with the Charleston Gazette, said he was running a courtroom, not a newsroom.