Journalist Dan Heyman was arrested at the West Virginia Capitol on Tuesday while attempting to ask a question to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price about health care.
A witness captured on video two officers holding Heyman by each arm and escorting him through the halls and then through glass-plated doors marked “Capitol Police.”
The Public News Service producer was detained by authorities, who accused him of “aggressively breaching the Secret Service agents.”
According to a criminal complaint obtained by WSAZ, police said “agents were forced to remove [Heyman] a couple of times from the area walking up the hallway in the main building of the Capitol.” Police said Heyman was “yelling a question,” at Price.
Heyman later received support from the American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia. The organization held a press conference with Heyman following his release. The reporter said there were a number of people at the Capitol wanting to ask Price about pre-existing conditions in the health care bill passed by the House recently.
“It’s dreadful,” Heyman said, according to The New York Daily News. “This is my job, this is what I’m supposed to do. I’m supposed to find out if someone is going to be affected by this health care law […] I think it is a question that deserves to be answered.”
Heyman said he was working on a story about whether or not domestic violence is a pre-existing condition. He said when Price came into the building, he held out his phone to record Price’s answer, pushing it past Price’s staffers so he could position his phone so it could pick up Price’s voice.
Price refused to answer Heyman’s question. The reporter said he persisted, which might have led to his arrest. Heyman, who said he had never been arrested before, was charged with willful disruption of government processes and later posted a $5,000 bond.
Heyman’s lawyer, Tim DiPiero, described the incident as “highly unusual.”
“I’ve never had a client get arrested for talking too loud or anything similar to that,” DiPiero said. “Mr. Heyman, I know from reputation of being a mild-mannered guy. He cleared security before he went into the building and he had no intention of doing anything other than asking a tough question.
“We just don’t understand why he got arrested it just seems way over the top.”