A 12-year-old Pennsylvania reporter chasing down a news tip calmly faced down a Patagonia, Arizona, marshal who pulled her over on her bike and reportedly threatened to throw her in juvenile detention.
Journalist Hilde Kate Lysiak, publisher and star reporter of the Orange Street News website, wrote a story about the encounter and posted a video of the law enforcement officer. The article triggered several complaints, and the town of Patagonia announced it had taken appropriate “action” concerning the marshal, which it didn’t specify, Nogales International reported.
Marshal Joseph Patterson pulled Lysiak over Monday afternoon as she was riding her bike down a street in pursuit of her story, she reported on her site. She said Patterson demanded an ID, and she identified herself as a member of the press. The young publisher is in Arizona to cover border issues, according to Pennsylvania’s York Dispatch.
“I don’t want to hear about any of that freedom of the press stuff,” he said, according to Lysiak, and added, “I’m going to have you arrested and thrown in [juvy].”
Lysiak later filmed Patterson with her cellphone in another encounter soon afterward. “When you saw me earlier, you threatened to throw me in juvy. What exactly am I doing that’s illegal?” she asked.
Patterson gave her a string of reasons, including that she “quickly left the boy she was with” when Lysiak saw him, followed him and disobeyed an order. Patterson also claimed there was a “mountain lion in the area” and that he was only looking out for her safety (though Lysiak reported there were other people nearby who were not warned to leave).
He also told her she was allowed to film him but it would be illegal to post it on the internet. It’s not.
“You can tape me. But what I’m going to tell you is if you put my face on the internet, it’s against the law in Arizona,” Patterson tells her in the video. “So I’m not giving you permission to use my picture or my face on the internet. Do you understand all that?”
Dan Barr, a lawyer with the First Amendment Coalition of Arizona, told the Nogales newspaper in an email that Patterson’s statement was “complete nonsense” and that it was “perfectly legal” for Lysiak to post Patterson’s image. “I hope this is not reflective of the Patagonia marshal threatening people with other nonexistent criminal violations,” he wrote.
Lysiak’s story on her site began: “The OSN was working on a story in Patagonia, Arizona, when a law enforcement officer threatened the reporter with arrest unless she stopped reporting the news.”
Patterson could not immediately be reached for comment.
The town issued a statement on its website that it had received “many comments concerning Marshal Patterson’s interaction with a young reporter from the Orange Street News.” It said the “matter has been carefully reviewed” and the town took “action we believe is appropriate to the situation.”
The statement added: “We do not publicly disclose personnel actions including discipline and will have no further comment on this matter.”
Lysiak later defended Patterson from people posting his personal information on the internet.
Lysiak has been a media star since 2015, when she launched the Orange Street News in her hometown of Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania.
She’s an accomplished journalist who has grabbed scoops ahead of veteran reporters. She’s the youngest member of the national Society of Professional Journalists. An upcoming girl mystery series inspired by her is being produced by Apple TV.