A freelance CBS News videographer who allegedly assaulted three men at a Carlisle football game while trying to take video of Brooke Skylar Richardson is seeking to have the charges dismissed, citing First Amendment protections.
David Sapp, 52, of Centerville, Utah was part of a six-person CBS News team that went to the football game Sept. 13 to gather video for a news report about Richardson’s high-profile murder trial. He claims the state is using the assault statute to violate his newsgathering rights that are protected by the Ohio and U.S. constitutions.
Richardson, 20, was found not guilty on charges of aggravated murder, involuntary manslaughter and child endangering but was convicted of abuse of a corpse the day before the game. She was accused of having a baby in secret, murdering her and burying her in the backyard in May 2017. She was sentenced to seven days in jail, credited for time serve and three years community control earlier that day.
According to Carlisle police, officers working security were told at the end of the game that there was a fight happening behind the home stands, according to a police report. They found multiple men wrestling with another man on the ground at Laughlin Field.
Three men who were involved in the fight, including the head of the school’s football boosters program, told police that Sapp “was attempting to record the Richardson family and was under the bleachers.” They said they told Sapp he needed to leave and Sapp struck them with his camera.
According to the motion filed by Sapp’s attorney, Kevin Tierney of Cincinnati, a woman complained to football support staff about Sapp shooting video, and three men confronted him. Sapp allegedly kicked or kneed two of the men in the groin and struck one in the head with his camera.
Because one of the men was employed with the Carlisle Local Schools custodial staff and served as president of the high school boosters, the motion is claiming they were “government actors” who were motivated by “media animus.”
The motion claims that it was an effort to suppress Sapp’s First Amendment rights to gather news and take video of the football game, the marching band and cheerleaders for the CBS News report that was featured on “48 Hours” several weeks later.
The motion says that the state’s assault statute violates Sapp’s press freedoms and rights protected by the U.S. and Ohio constitutions and that the evidence against Sapp was contrived. None of the CBS News personnel was interviewed by police in their investigation, it claims.
The motion says that Sapp “was not the initial aggressor” because he did not seek out any contact with the three men and acted in self-defense.
“Witnesses from CBS - who police did not bother to interview, and from whom they did not obtain statements - recall that three men ganged up on Mr. Sapp from the beginning, pushed him, took him to the ground, and collectively struck him. Those witnesses recall Mr. Sapp used force in defense of himself, and not offensively,” the motion said. “The CBS personnel said in the motion that physical contact was initiated by the three men and Sapp pushed back in self-defense.”
Franklin Municipal Court Judge Ronald Ruppert has yet to rule on the motion that was filed Oct. 8. Sapp’s next pre-trial conference is scheduled for noon on Nov. 8.
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