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Judge Clears AZ Reporter Charged With Harassing State Senator

A judge dismissed Arizona state Sen. Wendy Rogers’ restraining order against a reporter saying that the investigative journalist’s conduct did not rise to the level of harassment. “I don’t think there is a series of events directed at Sen. Rogers that would cause a reasonable person to be seriously alarmed, annoyed or harassed even if she in fact was,” said Judge Howard Grodman in Flagstaff Justice Court. “The strongest point is investigative reporting is a legitimate purpose. lt just is.” Another judge approved the Republican lawmaker’s request for an injunction last month against reporter Camryn Sanchez, sparking an outcry from journalists and First Amendment advocates, according to the Associated Press. The hearing was held without notice to Sanchez. Christopher Hennessy, the attorney for Sanchez, accused Rogers of using an injunction as a tactic to keep Sanchez from doing her job. “What Sen. Rogers decided to do is take something that is intended to be a shield and turned it into a weapon,” Hennessy said. Joseph Russomanno, a journalism and mass communication professor at Arizona State University’s Cronkite journalism school, said upholding Rogers’ injunction would have put journalists and basic news gathering in danger

The senator sought an injunction after Sanchez, who covers the Senate for the Arizona Capitol Times, began investigating whether Rogers’ primary residence was in her legislative district. Financial disclosure forms state Rogers lives in a mobile home in Flagstaff. Sanchez found public property records indicating Rogers and her husband bought a home in the Phoenix suburb of Chandler in January and signed a trust document stating she lives in nearby Tempe. Sanchez approached both Chandler and Tempe homes to inquire if Rogers was present and to talk to neighbors. Rogers cited the interactions and Sanchez' approaching her on the Senate floor with questions as evidence of harassment. She claimed Sanchez had been verbally warned last year not to go up to her there. Sanchez denied getting such a warning. Based solely on Rogers’ testimony, a judge granted a request that Sanchez must stay away from Rogers’ homes for one year. The judge asked Rogers if she knew whether it was common practice for journalists to approach a person’s home. Russomanno said, "That the judge would place credibility in Sen. Rogers and her ability to determine what is a standard practice of journalism, which is in effect what the judge was asking her, it was ridiculous”


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