The judge presiding over the Kyle Rittenhouse murder trial has banned MSNBC from entering the courthouse after a person who claimed to be a producer with the network allegedly followed a bus transporting the 12-person jury deliberating the teen’s fate.
Judge Bruce Schroeder on Thursday said that Kenosha Police apprehended a person “who identified himself as James J. Morrison, and who claimed he was a producer with NBC News and MSNBC.” He was apparently pulled over for running a red light and told police he’d been instructed to follow the bus, Schroeder said.
“I have instructed that no one from MSNBC will be permitted in this building for the duration of this trial,” Schroeder said. “This is a very serious matter. And I don’t know what the ultimate truth of it is.”
The Kenosha Police Department confirmed Thursday that a person “who is alleging to be affiliated with a national media outlet was briefly taken into custody and issued several traffic-related citations.”
Police and Schroeder said that the jury’s security was never compromised in the incident. Jurors are on their third day of deliberating whether Rittenhouse, 18, should be convicted of five felony charges for killing two people and injuring a third last August.
“Police suspect this person was trying to photograph jurors,” the police said in a statement, adding that the incident is “being investigated much further.”
However, NBC said in a Thursday statement that the person was a freelancer who just happened to get a traffic citation near the jury bus.
“Last night, a freelancer received a traffic citation. While the traffic violation took place near the jury van, the freelancer never contacted or intended to contact the jurors during deliberations, and never photographed or intended to photograph them,” the statement said. “We regret the incident and will fully cooperate with the authorities on any investigation.”
Despite acknowledging he didn’t know the “ultimate truth,” Schroeder, who has come under fire throughout this trial for his media-bashing and eccentric courtroom tactics, exercised his own form of punishment—and banned MSNBC entirely.
Julius Kim, a Milwaukee-based criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor, told The Daily Beast that if the person who allegedly followed the jury bus was indeed a freelancer, MSNBC should fight the judge’s ban.
“I think MSNBC can—and should—hire outside counsel to intervene and ask the court to reconsider because that would be unfair,” Kim said. “Unless, a real MSNBC employee did, in fact, direct him to either follow the bus and/or take pics of the jury. If that wasn’t the case, I would ask the judge to reconsider.”
Immediately after Schroeder’s announcement, several Fox News personalities celebrated the fact that their cable news rival wouldn’t be allowed to cover the highly watched trial live.
“I think it speaks to this bigger issue of chilling free speech,” Fox News anchor Harris Faulkner declared during Thursday’s broadcast of Outnumbered. “And I don’t mean on behalf of MSNBC. They wanted to change the narrative! They wanted to get pictures of people and they know that’s wrong.”
Former Trump spokesperson and current Fox News host Kayleigh McEnany added to the pile on.
“They have so poorly misbehaved,” she exclaimed. “That means Joy Reid will have essentially no facts for her show. MSNBC not in the courtroom. She’s been among the worst offenders to defame this young man, among others at her network.”