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Minn. prosecutors seek reporters' notes from standoff

By The Associated Press
01.18.07

MANKATO, Minn. — Prosecutors are seeking the notes and testimony of three journalists who covered a police standoff during which a reporter interviewed the man held at bay.

The Free Press of Mankato said it would oppose the effort by the Blue Earth County attorney's office. A hearing is scheduled Feb. 2.

On Dec. 23, officers responded to a domestic disturbance at the Amboy home of Jeffrey Skjervold. During the hours-long standoff, Skjervold exchanged fire with officers before killing himself.

Officer Robert Sadusky lost his right eye after going into the home to confront Skjervold. Another member of Sadusky's tactical response team, Chris Nelson, was hurt, though less seriously.

Assistant Blue Earth County Attorney Pat McDermott said the request for information from the newspaper was part of a criminal investigation stemming from the standoff. He would not specify its focus.

"I won't know that until the investigation is complete," he said yesterday.

Managing Editor Joe Spear said he was served with court papers on Jan. 16, as were reporters Dan Nienaber and Nick Hanson.

"We believe it's important to our readers and sources that they can trust us when they talk to us and not everything will be given to law enforcement," Spear said. "We have to maintain our independence."

Mark Anfinson, an attorney representing The Free Press, said it was an odd situation. "I'm perplexed," he said. "Normally, when it comes from law enforcement, it's pretty clear what crime is being prosecuted."

Hanson was at the scene of the standoff, where authorities released few details as negotiators spoke with the suspect. Nienaber was called in to help. The newspaper reported that he made calls hoping to interview neighbors. Instead, he reached Skjervold and conducted a short interview.

When law enforcement found out Skjervold was talking to someone at The Free Press, they called Spear who agreed — after an argument — that the newspaper would stop calling Skjervold, according to court papers. Police were working with the phone company at the time so only they could contact Skjervold.

Since the standoff, the newspaper reported that it had filed a written request to get detailed information about the Amboy incident, but had not yet received it.

Lt. Mark Peterson, a State Patrol spokesman who has handled news-media inquiries about the Amboy incident, said he expected to give the newspaper most of the information soon.


Update
Reporters must hand over notes from armed standoff
'Freedom of the press is not quite as sacrosanct or absolute as the Free Press would like it to be,' Minnesota county judge writes. 02.15.07

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