Private security personnel working for Joe Miller, Alaska’s Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, detained and handcuffed a local editor on October 17, 2010, when he persisted in questioning Miller at a town hall event.
As Miller was leaving the event, Alaska Dispatch founder and editor Tony Hopfinger followed him with a video camera, asking about allegations that Miller had been disciplined for improperly using Fairbanks city resources for his own campaigns while employed part-time as an attorney by a Fairbanks city borough.
A confrontation ensued between Miller’s private security detail and Hopfinger. The security guards forced Hopfinger into handcuffs and said he was under arrest. They detained the editor until Anchorage police arrived and released him, according to the Anchorage Daily News.
One of the guards seized Hopfinger’s videocamera, the Anchorage Daily News reported. Hopfinger later said that the camera was returned to him, but that the segment leading up to and covering his detention was missing. The guard who grabbed the camera declined to identify himself to the Anchorage Daily News and denied erasing any images.
Hopfinger’s online Alaska Dispatch reported:
“Two or three bodyguards told Hopfinger to stop asking questions and to leave the building…[they] told him that if he persisted they would arrest him for trespassing, but refused to identify themselves to Hopfinger. Hopfinger asked why he was trespassing, as the event was at a public school. Seconds later, he was then put in [an] arm-bar and later handcuffed and sequestered at one end of a hallway for at least 30 minutes. He was told, ‘You’re under arrest.'”
Miller’s campaign later released the following statement:
“While Miller attempted to calmly exit the facility, the blogger physically assaulted another individual and made threatening gestures and movements towards the candidate.” Milller’s campaign “security personnel intervened and detained the irrational blogger,” whom they did not know was a journalist, and who “appeared irrational, angry and potentially violent.”
No charges were immediately filed against any parties in the matter.
Earlier that month, Alaska media outlets including the online Alaska Dispatch, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner and the Anchorage Daily News filed separate lawsuits against the Fairbanks North Star Borough, seeking the employment file from Miller’s tenure as a part-time attorney at the borough. National media including The Associated Press, The Washington Post and The New York Times have also made public record requests for the same files, according to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.