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Old 12-21-07, 11:38 AM
Tres Tres is offline
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Default All charges against Lawson thrown out

From The Arkansas Publisher Weekly...

All charges against Bill Lawson, a reporter and photographer with Stephens Media, were dropped on Dec. 14. Lawson had been charged with obstruction of a government operation merely for taking photographs at the scene of a fire. On Dec. 10, he was handcuffed and detained for 30 minutes by State Trooper Thomas Weindruch, who then issued Lawson a citation for a Class C misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $100 upon conviction.

“It's still a sad day when a journalist can be arrested for just doing [his] job. But it’s a testament to our judicial system that, although it is purposefully slow and thorough, it clearly works,” said Lawson after the charge was thrown out Friday.

“There was never any doubt on my part, but I pray that this never happens to another journalist again. I’m thankful that I work for such an outstanding organization as Stephens Media that stood behind me and hired legal counsel the night it happened,” Lawson concluded.

According to the Arkansas News Bureau, Lawson identified himself as a media representative, but that the trooper took no notice of that fact. Weindruch was described as “abusive, intimidating and downright scary.”

“It has been a reassuring lesson that our system of government works. We still have Freedom of the Press, and we are a country of checks and balances where residents and journalists alike can be protected from false arrest,” said Lawson.
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Old 02-18-08, 02:20 PM
Tres Tres is offline
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Default Numerous complaints against Weindruch emerge

News sources in the state have recently uncovered additional complaints lodged agains Arkansas State Trooper Tom Weindruch via a Freedom of Information Act request. The following was reported in the Times Record of Fort Smith over the weekend:

No Shortage Of Complaints About Trooper

A State Police trooper’s record of complaints would appear to be sufficient to question whether he’s fit for service.

Trooper Tom Weindruch arrested and handcuffed Bill Lawson, a reporter and photographer, in December, an action for which the trooper was reassigned to non-enforcement duties pending the results of an investigation.

Lawson, who works for the Maumelle Monitor and other Stephens Media papers in the central Arkansas area, was trying to take pictures of a house fire when he got into it with the trooper. Weindruch, who had not been asked to secure the area around the fire, took it upon himself to do so and arrested Lawson for obstructing governmental operations. The citation was dismissed.

Three days later, Lawson filed a complaint against the trooper who prompted the investigation. One might think that two months would be enough time to bring such an investigation to closure, but as yet that has not happened.

Weindruch has been a trooper for a little longer than three years. If this had been an isolated incident, one could give him the benefit of the doubt that he thought it was in the best interest of the local fire department that he help secure the scene and that his goals were honorable if misguided in removing one of our inky wretch brethren from the area.

That, however, would not be the case, at least not the isolated incident part.

The Arkansas News Bureau, which is also owned by Stephens Media, which also owns the Times Record, filed a request of Weindruch’s personnel records through a Freedom of Information Act request shortly after the incident occurred. In response, the State Police released Weindruch’s records containing three complimentary letters. Except there was more to the story than that.

Earlier this month, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel released an opinion on a different matter, saying that complaints from citizens about public employees are releasable. Based on that, the news bureau filed another FOIA request for the trooper’s records. The result was that in the relatively brief period of time that Weindruch has been in his position, he’s racked up quite an impressive list of formal complaints from the public.

Actually, the first one he got was just about a week before he received his commission as a trooper in late 2004, according to an Arkansas News Bureau story. In the complaint, a man said an ambulance swerved in front of his vehicle and stopped suddenly, forcing the man to stop. He said Weindruch, who was a passenger in the ambulance that his fiancée was driving, leapt from the ambulance and pounded his fist on the hood of the man’s car, denting it. Weindruch then violently opened the man’s door, injuring the man’s shoulder, the man said. The man wrote in the complaint that Weindruch showed a “raging temperament.”

Other complaints ranged from Weindruch’s being described as disrespectful to his exhibiting road rage-type tendencies.

One man said he was cooperating with Weindruch, but the trooper pushed him down on the hood of a car twisting the man’s leg and injuring his knee. In another case, two motorists said Weindruch made accusatory comments toward them and displayed a “lack of any common courtesy” and an “elevated temper” when he was investigating a motorcycle accident even though the two weren’t involved in the accident.

A woman said he yelled at her constantly after he stopped her, even though she had not said or done anything to cause the outburst.

In perhaps the most bizarre complaint, a man said an unmarked SUV began following him. He said the driver of the SUV, Weindruch, who was in civilian clothing, began waiving and yelling at him. He said he thought Weindruch was an “enraged psychotic” when Weindruch forced another vehicle off the road. Later, the man said he was pulled over by a State Police vehicle, and that during the stop, Weindruch yanked him out of his car, angrily handcuffed him — and did all this dangerously close to oncoming traffic.

Lawson, the newspaper reporter/photographer, said Weindruch was rude, abusive and threatening. “I think he has anger management issues that need to be addressed,” Lawson said this week.

(By the way: Weindruch was given the opportunity to comment for the story about the numerous complaints but chose not to say anything.)

Actually, we’re a bit surprised that someone with that kind of track record was still patrolling in December when he arrested Lawson. Such a pattern of aberrant behavior, coupled with a short fuse, does not, in our estimation, make for the ideal temperament of a law enforcement officer.

Granted, these complaints represent only one side of the story of these encounters, and one presumes that the State Police looked into each one of them to hear his side and in the end, supported Weindruch. Still, it will be interesting to see what the final word will be on Weindruch’s arrest and handcuffing of someone who was armed only with a camera and even at that, only trying to do his job as a journalist.
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