The attorney for a WBRZ-TV reporter who was handcuffed and briefly detained recently for refusing a White Castle police officer’s directive to leave Town Hall has asked the town to either drop the case against him or step aside and let a state district court handle any proceedings related to the case.
Town hall security video shows Nakamoto patiently waiting befo...
The White Castle attorney said Chris Nakamoto WBRZ caused a disturbance and tried to go into restricted areas of the office. Security video shows that was not the case.STORY: http://www.wbrz.com/news/town-hall-security-video-shows-nakamoto-patiently-waiting-before-arrest-last-weekPosted by WBRZ Channel 2 on Thursday, March 31, 2016
Attorney Lewis Unglesby asserts in the request filed Thursday in White Castle that the town’s court doesn’t even have the jurisdiction to preside over the case involving reporter Chris Nakamoto.
Nakamoto was issued a misdemeanor summons after he was accused last week of violating state law by “remaining after being forbidden.” He was placed in handcuffs and escorted out of the lobby in Town Hall by a town police officer who had asked him to leave.
Mayor Gerald Jemarr Williams responded Thursday by saying he would have to speak with the town’s attorney and chief of police before making a decision on the request. The town attorney is presently out of town on vacation, Williams added.
“I can’t make the decision on my own,” Williams said.
Unglesby said Thursday his office had to get a signed order from a state district court judge just to file the motion with the town.
“The mayor and the (town) clerk refused to accept it at first,” Unglesby said. “We had to go to district court to file a pleading in a public forum involving an individual whom they expect to make an appearance.”
Nakamoto, who has done a series of investigative news reports targeting the mayor, was trying to obtain several public records he had requested when the incident occurred. Nakamoto’s boss said previously town officials refused to respond to those records request, and the reporter was trying to get answers as to why.
The town’s attorney, Valencia Vessel-Landry, said police were called to Town Hall because the reporter was causing a disturbance and trying to gain access to a restricted area of the building after a town official refused to be interviewed on camera.
Nakamoto is set to appear in White Castle Court at 6 p.m. April 28, according to the summons he was issued. Williams appointed Vessel-Landry to serve as magistrate of the court.
But Unglesby has asked that she and the mayor recuse themselves from the case, dismiss the summons or refer the case to the 18th Judicial District Court, which encompasses Pointe Coupee, West Baton Rouge and Iberville parishes.
In his motion, Unglesby says Nakamoto couldn’t get a fair trial in the White Castle court because of the mayor’s and Vessel-Landry’s negative bias and prejudice toward the reporter. Unglesby based his argument on several comments the mayor and town attorney made on social media following several of Nakamoto’s news reports questioning a significant salary increase Williams received last year.
In one of the excerpts, Unglesby said, Vessel-Landry posted on social media that Nakamoto “was there for one reason only ... to create a scene! His desire is to embarrass the Town of White Castle, to attack the Clerk, to harass the Mayor (who wasn’t present). And to insult to injury ... is playing the victim.”
In additional comments in the motion, Vessel-Landry is accused of urging White Castle residents to make complaints to the Federal Communications Commission against WBRZ-TV and Nakamoto — which is encouraged by the mayor.
“Apparent from this information, Vessel-Landry has already determined the defendant’s guilt without trial,” the motion states. “Vessel-Landry is also the town attorney, who would present the evidence. … She can’t present evidence to herself and then decide its value.”
Unglesby further states in the motion that White Castle’s court is not a municipal court. He says the court, which he refers to in the document as “The Mayor’s Court,” only has jurisdiction to hear cases concerning violations of city ordinances, not state law.
“This did not have to go this far,” Williams said. “We gave Chris everything he asked for. I just wish the reporting by WBRZ hadn’t been as one-sided as it has been.”
Follow Terry Jones on Twitter, @tjonesreporter.