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WASHINGTON — The U.S. Marshals Service has released, with minor redactions, the report on its internal investigation of what it calls the “Hattiesburg Incident” of April 7, 2004. That’s when a deputy U.S. marshal in the Mississippi city directed two local reporters who were covering a speech by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia to erase their recordings of the speech, believing she was enforcing the justice’s policy against recording his public talks. When the marshal’s actions were reported in the media at the time, Scalia took the unusual step of apologizing to the reporters by letter, taking blame for the marshal’s actions. Scalia said he had failed to clarify his policy, which is to allow print reporters to record his talks for note-taking purposes, not for broadcast. But the reporters’ employers, The Associated Press and the Hattiesburg American, lodged protests with the service and complained that the journalists’ First Amendment rights in a public forum had been violated. The internal investigation ensued, after which the service’s lawyers concluded no laws had been violated. At first the marshal’s service withheld the investigative report from public view, but the Hattiesburg paper sued and the agency relented. The newly disclosed documents, now available on the always interesting governmentattic.org Web site, include transcripts of depositions given by all involved. including the reporters, Antoinette Konz of the American, and Denise Grones of the AP. They describe the actions of the marshal, Melanie Rube, as fairly aggressive, interrupting them while they were trying to cover Scalia’s speech at the Presbyterian Christian High School and trying to erase the speech on one recorder herself. Both reporters erased or turned over their recordings. Interestingly, the depositions also indicate Scalia was angry at the broadcast media earlier in the day, before the tape incident. At a reception following Scalia’s earlier appearance at William Carey University in Hattiesburg, AP reporter Grones said she overheard Scalia telling people around him that he was upset that his host had announced Scalia would be available to talk to the media at the reception. Grones said Scalia’s words were “something along the lines, I hate the media, don’t like the media, I don’t know why they’re here. I’m not talking to them.” Rube, the deputy marshal, effectively confirmed that story in her deposition, stating that she heard Scalia tell college president Larry Kennedy at the reception, “your press is going to be disappointed because I don’t do interviews. I don’t talk to the press.” When a local camera crew shot footage of Scalia walking through the room, Rube continued, “Justice Scalia looked like he got angry. He walked over, kind of threw his notebook down, said something to the president of the college. I’m not sure what it was, but I know it involved telling the media to go away or telling the cameraman to go away.” Kennedy talked to the cameraman, who promptly packed up and left. Tony Mauro is the U.S. Supreme Court correspondent for Legal Times, a Recorder affiliate based in Washington, D.C. His e-mail address is [email protected].

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