Reporters Threatened With Arrest After Filming President Grant’s Cottage Near A New York Prison

53d2c9932a01b.preview-620We have yet another case of law enforcement holding people for filming in public and threatening them with arrest. This one however is particularly curious. NewsChannel 13 reporter Mark Mulholland and a videographer were filming a story on Grant Cottage where President Ulysses S. Grant had come to the cottage to finish writing his memoirs. This year is the 129th anniversary of his death and the crew was filming costumed re-enactors were commemorating the anniversary. Due to breaking news, the crew had to return the next day to finish with the shots. They were then approached by a Lt. Dorn from the nearby Mt. McGregor Correctional Facility and told that they could not film without permission. What unfolded was a rule that seemed to be without any coherence as to who may take pictures at a historic site.

Dorn is heard saying “Excuse me. No filming.” The crew explains that they are just filming the cottage as a historic site. Dorn responds “It doesn’t matter. You’re on state property right now. You can’t film here. You gotta get permission through Albany to film.” The cottage shares land with the prison.

When Mulholland said he would move back up the mountain to the Grant Cottage state historic site where public visitors could be seen, Dorn then said that he would not allow him to do that: “You’re not up here for that. You’re up here for different purposes.”

Mulholland: (to the cameraman) “You’re rolling right?” (to Dorn) “You’re telling us we can’t visit a historic site?”

Dorn: “No. You’re going to have to run that through Albany.”

. . .

Dorn: “Look. I’m not going to go around with this you on this. You’re going to leave the property.”

Mulholland: “OK. We will. We will go up to the historic site.”

Dorn: “You cannot film up there.”

Mulholland: “We will go to the historic site and do our job.”

As Dorn says that he wants the state police called, another correctional employee used his car to block NewsChannel 13’s access to the historic site (while moving his car to allow other visitors to go through).

Mulholland asked “If I’m a member of the public and I’m taking pictures of Grant’s Cottage and there’s the facility right behind it, what do you do in that case?”

Dorn responded that “If we’re aware the facility is in the background, those photos will be confiscated.”

Later an official at the Department of Corrections said the station had to surrender its video.

The Department of Corrections later issued a statement that accused NewsChannel 13 of trespassing and that anyone on department property must ask permission to film or risk confiscation of their film. However, this is a historic site routinely visited and filmed by tourists.

The New York State Associated Press Association issued a statement that condemned the actions and noted “there are no prisoners on site and the prison is to close within days.”

The fact that this occurs on prison property distinguishes it from other cases of filming in public areas. The fact is that the legislature and courts have been entirely deferential to prison in such policies. When on prison property, the correctional officials are given sweeping authority. However, in this case, the prison includes a nearby historic site and there is no cognizable threat to prison security, particularly given the offer to film only the cottage. More importantly, this appears a case of selective enforcement where tourists regularly take pictures but the news crew was stopped. The obvious lack of consistency (and flexibility) by the prison is disturbing.

Source: Post Star

Kudos: Michael Blott

38 thoughts on “Reporters Threatened With Arrest After Filming President Grant’s Cottage Near A New York Prison”

  1. A prison susceptible to simple filming is not much of an effective prison, any filming needed for an escape could much more easily be accomplished by air or with a $150 quadcopter drone.

    A prison without prisoners due to be closed in days makes this ludicrous on its face. If the site is open to the public and the public can photograph or film without restriction – it becomes not only ludicrous but a case of WTF?

    The ONLY justification I could even stretch my imagination around would be if they were actively filming the security guards, or their vehicles in some manner. There is no claim that they did so.

    The fact that the film crew filmed the previous day, with the actors (which one assumes was a much more obvious production), without interference seems on it’s surface to belie any claims that some special permission was needed.

    This was a plainly marked and identified newscrew, not some nefarious skulking ne’er-do-well surreptitiously filming; even moreso than than the public the First Amendment virtually demands that they be allowed even more access, not less. This plainly abridges the freedom of the press. If the prison had legitimate issues with certain shots, they could file for an injunction and ask for those specific shots to be removed for security reasons. It seems as if barring the filming entirely or confiscating the entire video taken amounts to prior restraint – but not being an expert on Constitutional Law, I will admit that my impression there may be incorrect.

    If the Press is to act as a check on Government abuses as the framers intended – then they must be allowed an increased degree of freedom to do so. Last time I checked, even state prisons were part of the Government.

    I am glad these abuses were caught on film, what surprises me is that the prison powers that be did not apologize for this aggregious act, but compounded it by demanding the film be confiscated.

    As for the courts allowing deference to
    Prisons, they have also shown deference to the police when they abuse their power, even in cases of brutality. It is high time our courts started showing more deference to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. However it is simply symptomatic of the greater abdication of both the Judicial and Legislative Branches to act as a check on our obviously runaway Executive Branch and it’s many tentacles.

  2. Lt. Dorn and his fellow cretins of the NYS Department of Corrections unite and expose yourselves to one and all as the petty authoritarian turd-stains you truly are.

  3. Most perimeters outside most prisons with a yard have signs posted that say no filming….

  4. @Anonymouly Yours “But could you imagine people filming the prison just to figure out the weak spots are for escapes?”

    Reread the story. The prison was closing and all the prisoners were gone. This was a case of someone with a tiny bit of power abusing it to the hilt.

    Other versions of this story have stated that the crew was on a public road and not prison property at the time.

  5. QY, if public knowledge of what could be seen from the road were a security problem, it would not have been open to the general public. If filming did create some strange security issue, they would have prohibited filming in the area altogether. However, others were permitted to film at the historic sight and the guards were apparently continuing to permit such access while blocking the news crew.

  6. How can the prison officials expect the prison not to be photographed when it is next to a historic site?

  7. I am gonna go on the side of the State Correctional Officer…. It shared land with a correctional facility…. Usually I am on the side of film in public anywhere you want…. The story they are doing on Grant maybe worthwhile…. But could you imagine people filming the prison just to figure out the weak spots are for escapes?

    It’s the states issue for building a correctional facility next to the cabin….

    1. Could not agree more, Karen. These people are idiots. Whereever they got their education owes them a refund.

  8. AMEN to that – doglover!

    We even have confessions to deliberate “Fraud on the Court” by approved “Officers of the Court” and the Judge said I don’t her permission to inform her about the fraud. She’s too busy (and actually ends the transcript with “I’ve got to get back to Tweeter”

    Go to the end of the transcript….

  9. All govt. employees like the low hanging fruit. Cops are govt. employees, w/ guns.

  10. Several stories recently have been published about police overstepping their bounds. The real problem is that police typically go after easy targets rather than more challenging targets i.e. those who have committed the most egregious crimes who live in gated communities with security guards.

  11. There are some other sites are that are screwy as well. Canyon de Chelly belongs to the Park Service but the floor of the canyon belongs to the Navajos. So, to tour the Canyon you have to take a Navajo tour, not a park led tour. Can I just say that the Navajo guide we had either was lying through his teeth or knew little about the history of his own tribe.

  12. In fairness, you have to remember that the Grant site is actually located within the Mount McGregor state prison complex (though separated from the prison itself). The story did not make that clear.

    The staff at other historic sites would probably not be as aggressive.

  13. 1st question is – Were they ON the State Property.
    (If not – what authority does a security guard have to “confiscate”)?

    2nd is – Where’s the statute in particular – and the wording thereof?


    This notion that cops can confiscate and/or impede a party filming has been smacked down – time and again.

    Authority does not = genius!

  14. Would have told the “Tin Badge, Rent a cop” to kiss my American As* and continued filming. If they touched me, I would have evoked my Constitutional Rights to Self-Defense and beat the “Hel*” out of both of them!

  15. This recent trend to ban the photography of cultural and historical sites indicates deliberate suppression of our culture. One is reminded of the Muslim practice of destroying sites of historical interest.

  16. My sister used to travel extensively during the 70’s, spending some time in the Soviet Union. She often remarked how you had to be SO cautious in the Soviet Union on what you photographed. Just sayn’.

Comments are closed.