Monday, June 21, 2010

Was Television Reporter Targeted for Retaliation in Montgomery?

A television journalist who recently produced a critical report about Alabama Governor Bob Riley has been arrested for assault and escape after an encounter late last week with a Montgomery police officer.

WSFA reporter Eileen Jones, 66, allegedly drove over an officer's foot and drove away after being told she was under arrest. Jones reportedly was driving to the scene of a tanker-truck accident, where she was planning to do a live report.

In January, Jones produced a report about Alabama's electronic-bingo controversy where she quoted Governor Bob Riley as warning those who might "get too close to the families."

Is it coincidence that Jones now finds herself charged with misdemeanor assault and felony escape in an incident where police officers appear to have behaved in a questionable manner?

Given Riley's apparent control over the state's law-enforcement apparatus, and his thirst for revenge against those who displease him, we would not be surprised if Jones was targeted for special attention.

Officers claimed that Jones never identified herself as a news reporter. But Jones' version of events is quite different. Reports the Montgomery Advertiser:

. . . Jones said she identified herself as a reporter as soon as the officer approached her vehicle. She said she rolled down her window and told the officer she was there to do a live broadcast. He asked her who she was and she told him she was Eileen Jones with WSFA, she said.

She said she then walked away and called someone. She waited a long time for him to return and began to worry that she would not make it to the truck in time for the broadcast.

Jones said she honked her horn and beckoned the officer to her car. When he approached the car again, he was yelling at her, she said.

"I said, 'Why are you yelling at me? I just want to talk to you,'" Jones said, adding that she does not remember what the officer was saying to her.

The scene quickly turned even uglier:

The officer then walked away again, she said.

Jones said she decided then to drive over to where the officer was standing.

That is when the officer yelled that she had run over his foot and that she was under arrest, she said.

Jones said it did not seem likely that she could have run over his foot without even noticing.

"I think I would have felt it in the car if I had run over his foot," she said.

Jones, who is black, said the officer's behavior made her concerned for her safety:

Jones said the officer began to frighten her after that. He reached into her vehicle and tried to pull her out, she said.

"I was scared of that officer. I didn't know what he was going to do. I really thought it was going to be another Rodney King," Jones said.

Jones said he was jerking and pulling her and that her arm was still red and swollen Friday.

The seat belt was the only thing that kept him from pulling her out of the car, she said.

"I am sure he sprained his ankle when he was trying to pull me out of the car," she said.

Jones has been with WSFA for 18 years, and State Rep. Alvin Holmes (D-Montgomery) says he plans to look into the situation:

Alabama Rep. Alvin Holmes, D-Montgomery, said the black community in Montgomery was disturbed by the situation and that he plans to hold a mass meeting next week. Holmes said he plans to get national black leaders involved.

Holmes said that to not do something would be a "betrayal to the dream of Dr. King."

"Eileen Jones is on TV almost every day. Even if she did not identify herself as a news reporter, he knew she was a news reporter. But she was a black news
reporter ...

"We are not going to sit idly by and let this happen to her."
Is it a stretch to think that the governor's office might have targeted Jones? Well, we have seen firsthand evidence that those close to the Rileys don't mind interfering with individuals and their livelihoods. The Alabama Supreme Court, in a ruling that overruled clear precedent, essentially made Bob Riley the "supreme ruler" over the state's law-enforcement function. (Interestingly, Eileen Jones reported that story for WSFA.) And the Jones run-in with law enforcement came almost immediately after Alvin Holmes announced last week that the U.S. Justice Department had told him it would review a complaint he had filed about Riley's refusal to pay a Montgomery law firm that was hired by the Legislature. Holmes said the matter had been turned over to the DOJ's criminal division.

Here is a reminder about why Bob Riley might be unhappy with Eileen Jones. This is a YouTube clip that was generated from Jones' January report about the governor. At least one other Montgomery station broadcast a clip from the same interview, so Jones was not the only reporter on the story. In this segment, she does appear to be the reporter asking questions of Riley, prompting his comment about "the families":

UPDATE: The Montgomery Advertiser reports on June 22 that the felony escape charge against Eileen Jones has been dropped. A misdemeanor assault charge will proceed in Montgomery Municipal Court.


Anonymous said...

Well if she listened to the police officers this wouldnt have happened. She assaulted a police officer and she should be arrest. Plus i doubt the police would lie since if they are caught in a lie there credibility is shot and theyll lose there job unlike a new reporter who can mis quote and turn it into something big for there career

Anonymous said...

"Eileen Jones is on TV almost every day. Even if she did not identify herself as a news reporter, he knew she was a news reporter. But she was a black news reporter ...

Well i have no idea who this person is i doubt watch channel 12 so if the cop didnt watch it how would he know who she was

Anonymous said...

What is funny is that her bond was omly $3000, I would think a felony alone would be higher than that. Also, Eileen has a family member who won a large sum in a racial discrimination suit against the fire department here in Montgomery

Max Shelby said...

Riley again...he is the worst thing that has happened to Alabama in so many ways. If you go against him he comes after you with everything he can.
Heads up on the Ethics Commission appointment that will be coming in August when the miserable Michael Choy's reign of arrogance as the chairman is finally over.
Riley will appoint another God awful head of this corrupt and impotent state body.

Robby Scott Hill said...

@Max Shelby - That's bad news for Bar Exam Candidates. Michael Choy was well known to be the toughest Bar Examiner in The State of Alabama back in the 1990s & his propensity to fail candidates who scored well on the multiple choice section of the exam was one of the reasons why the multistate essay was finally adopted in Alabama. State bar examiners still get to grade the Alabama civil litigation essay and if Choy lands another gig as a bar examiner the pass rate will definitely go down. I say keep Michael Choy somewhere he can't do any damage and that's the Ethics Commission which doesn't have any real power.

Anonymous said...

Ms. Jones thinks she is above the law. Rules are Rules. If a law enforcement officer tell you to stop and you do not then what she receive she is good. Alvin Holmes is a devil. He is not looking out for what he can get. Ms. Jones has done this before and got away with it at the Fire Department that involves her son. She tried to bully her son's officer for breaking the departmental rules and WSFA did numbers of story of false claims on the fire department the chief of the department because her son had said he was going to kill another co-worker and went to his car to get a gun (supposely) She came back to the fire station to question the officer about her son. While at the station she would not leave and the rest of her family came along. Is that the goodie goodie Ms. Jones everybody thinks she is.

Nan said...

Why is race being brought into this?? Wrong is wrong and the Law is the Law. Ms. Jones, my family used to think you were a decent person UNTIL we saw you in action at the Dollar Tree on Atlanta Hwy.
Do you remember the "fuss" and problems you created when you tried to return about $5.00 of Christmas Decorations a week before Christmas. We were the family in back of you and we waited patiently while you completely humiliated the sales clerk. You were a "snit" and it was all about you. You showed a temper that you are now trying to deny you have (poor sweet little me?) We don't look at you the same way after that evening. If you and Alvin want to bring race into least you didn't discriminate against the clerk, he was black. (I'm white, and my heart went out to the poor guy that you treated like a "nobody".) You were cruel to him....makes me wonder about your story "I was afraid of the officer". Trust me, Eileen, that night in the Dollar Tree, you were hell on wheels, and not afraid of anybody or anything!!! PS, How desperate were you to return those decorations? We are talking Dollar Tree!!! If you changed your mind (or had already used them) why not donate them to the Sunshine House instead of showing your fearless self in public. (And Yes Eileen, you were talked about by everyone standing in that check out line as soon as the door shut behind you.) And Yes, Mr. Alvin, we were all Black and White and we all came together and agreed......hey, no discrimination in the line. Wrong is Wrong and Rude is Rude.