A preteen journalist who's been profiled in multiple national outlets claims an Arizona law enforcement officer threatened her with imprisonment. The reporter, Hilde Lysiak, caught part of the exchange on camera, and Marshal Joseph Patterson can be heard telling her that it would be illegal for her to post the video to the internet.
Lysiak, born in 2006, is publisher of the Orange Street News, a Pennsylvania-based local newspaper that she's been running since December 2014. While in Patagonia, Arizona, this week, Lysiak had a contentious encounter with Patterson. Lysiak claimed in a post on her newspaper's website that she was looking into a tip when Patterson stopped her and asked for identification. She didn't specify what the tip was about, though a February 15 story on her website reported on a mountain lion sighting in Patagonia. Patterson also mentioned the lion in the video she posted.
"I don't want to hear about any of that freedom of the press stuff," Lysiak claims Patterson said after she told him she was a reporter and gave him her name and phone number. "I'm going to have you arrested and thrown in juvie," he reportedly said. After asking what she had done to prompt a potential arrest, Lysiak says:
[T]he officer first said it was for "disobeying his command," then said it was for riding on the wrong side of the road. Finally, the officer said a Mountain Lion was spotted in the area despite [there] being other people in the area who were not kicked off the road.
At some point, Lysiak started taping, and the video she posted to YouTube reveals Patterson was not happy about it.
"You stopped me earlier and said that I could be thrown in juvie," Lysiak tells Patterson, who at that point is in his truck.
"You can be," Patterson says.
"What exactly am I doing that's illegal?" she asks. Patterson starts to explain, before apparently realizing Lysiak is recording him.
"You can tape me," he says on the video, but "if you put my face on the internet, it's against the law." He adds, "I'm not giving you permission to use my picture or my face on the internet."
Patterson then berates Lysiak for following him. "Don't follow law enforcement," he says, before claiming he didn't "want you to get hurt":
"I'm looking out for your safety," Patterson says in the video. "The area you were in, is where we're dealing with the mountain lion." When Lysiak again asks what she had done that was illegal, Patterson claims she "disobeyed" his "direct order." Before the video ends, Patterson warns Lysiak that he'll "be getting ahold of your parents."
"You aren't an adult so don't act like," Patterson said, according to Lysiak's post. That final statement was not captured on video.
On its website, the Town of Patagonia notes that it "carefully reviewed" the situation and has "taken action we believe to be appropriate," though it does not say what that action is. The town's website also mentions an Arizona law prohibiting people from posting personal information, including photographs, of peace officers to the internet. However, this is only illegal "if the dissemination of the personal information poses an imminent and serious threat to" that person or his immediate family. In this case, it's difficult to imagine that Lysiak's video poses any sort of safety threat to Patterson.
As KPNX noted, it's generally legal in Arizona to film interactions with police officers. "It is perfectly legal [to] post such a photo online," First Amendment Coalition of Arizona lawyer Dan Barr told Nogales International, referring to Lysiak's recording. "I hope this is not reflective of the Patagonia marshal threatening people with other nonexistent criminal violations," he added. Nogales International pointed out that Patterson is the same marshal who made similar threats against a protester who videotaped him near a Border Patrol checkpoint in 2013.
For Lysiak, it's far from the first time she's been in the spotlight. The young reporter, who's been profiled in the Washington Post and The New York Times, broke a murder story in 2016, when she was just 9 years old. Scholastic has published several mystery books based on her experiences, and Apple has ordered a mystery drama starring Brooklynn Prince as Lysiak.