Virginia authorities seize images from student paper

Attorneys representing a student newspaper and a county prosecutor have agreed to temporarily seal images seized from the newspaper and transfer them to a third party until the dispute over the images is settled, reported The Breeze, the student-run publication of James Madison University in Virginia. But the Rockingham County Commonwealth Attorney’s office is still pressing for at least some of the images to be released, according to the university newspaper.

Rockingham County police seized photographs from The Breeze on April 16, 2010. The images had been taken by student photographers covering an off-campus riot the Saturday night before during spring break. Rockingham County Attorney Marsha Garst requested that The Breeze editor-in-chief, Katie Thisdell, hand over the images on April 15. Thisdell refused, telling The Roanoke Times that the school paper would only provide photos already published on The Breeze’s Web site.  The following morning, Garst arrived with a police officers to execute a search warrant for the photographs of the riot.

Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center in Arlington, Virginia, said the execution of the search warrant may have violated the law. The Privacy Protection Act requires authorities to give the media ample time to obtain counsel and respond to the warrant, said LoMonte in a statement posted earlier this week on the center’s Web site.