A producer for WTTW’s Chicago Tonight was taken into custody and sternly lectured by a Cook County judge Wednesday for taking pictures inside the Leighton Criminal Courthouse after charges were dropped against an activist arrested during the Laquan McDonald protests.
“Shame on you,” Judge Peggy Chiampas chastised Chloe Riley. Chiampas said Riley proved that the press was being irresponsible and was creating a “media circus” while the city was “inflamed.”
The judge said she’d give Riley the “benefit of the doubt” that she didn’t know she couldn’t take photographs inside the courthouse without permission. But she added that her “gut” told her Riley knew the rules.
Riley was taken into custody after she was spotted taken pictures of activists leaving Chiampas’ courtroom after prosecutors told the judge they were dropping an aggravated battery charge against 22-year-old Malcolm London for allegedly punching a Chicago cop.
For the most part, reporters and photographers are allowed to take pictures only in a designated spot in the lobby of the courthouse at 26th and California.
Still and video pool cameras have been allowed for courtroom proceedings as part of a pilot program that started earlier this year. But lawyers can object to the cameras, and judges presiding in the specific case ultimately decide whether they will be allowed.
Chiampas on Wednesday told Riley she had two choices: Either delete the 15 pictures she took or be charged with contempt of court and serve a day at Cook County Jail.
Riley, a digital producer for “Chicago Tonight,” elected to erase the pictures in front of the judge.
Riley, who looked as if she had been crying, told Chiampas she was sorry. “I definitely apologize. It was my mistake, sincere apologies,” she said.
She was released from custody immediately. She tweeted about the incident later Wednesday.
“Hi guys, I’m back from jail after reporting on #FreeMalcolmLondon. Well that was just slightly ridiculous to put it mildly,” Riley wrote in a Tweet.
She specified in her tweets that she didn’t take 15 photographs but took “four rapid fire” photos of activists “holding their hands up in solidarity post hearing.”
Riley said she offered to delete the photos immediately after she was “jumped on” by four sheriff’s deputies. But they didn’t accept the offer.