Kenosha, WI – Kenosha police released bodycam video on Tuesday of what happened when police caught an NBC producer trying to follow the jury van during the murder trial of 18-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse and it showed the network’s official statement may not have accurately represented the situation (video below).
The incident occurred on the evening of Nov. 17, just after the Kenosha County jury deciding Rittenhouse’s fate had concluded its second day of deliberations, WISN reported.
Kenosha County Circuit Court Judge Bruce Schroeder called attorneys into the courtroom the next morning to announce that MSNBC had been banned from the courthouse for the duration of Kyle Rittenhouse’s murder trial.
Schroeder explained that the jury was transported to and from the courthouse each day in a “sealed bus” with blacked-out windows so that they were not exposed to the chaos happening in front of the courthouse.
The judge said he had received a report from the Kenosha Police Department that a media person was caught following the jury bus when it left the courthouse the night before.
Schroeder said police told him they had stopped “a person who identified himself as James J. Morrison and who claimed he was a producer with NBC News – employed for MSNBC – … under the supervision of someone named Irene Byon in New York for MSNBC.”
Schroeder said Kenosha police told him that Morrison was following about a block behind the jury bus and ran a red light.
“He stated that he had been instructed by Ms. Byon in New York to follow the jury bus,” the judge said.
Schroeder said that Morrison had received a ticket for running the light but that the matter was under further investigation at this point.
“I have instructed that no one from MSNBC News will be permitted in this building for the duration of this trial,” the judge announced.
“This is a very serious matter and I don’t know what the ultimate truth of it is, but absolutely it would go without much thinking that someone who is following the jury bus – that is a very, extremely serious matter and will be referred to the proper authorities for proper action,” he vowed.
NBC released a statement that said a “freelancer” had been stopped “near” the jury van, and took no ownership of the inappropriate behavior.
But bodycam video of the incident showed the judge’s characterization of the incident had been far more on target than NBC’s apology.
The video began with Kenosha Police Officer Jerel Jones-Denson asking the driver where he was from and why he was in Wisconsin.
The driver – identified by the judge as Morrison – told the officer he worked for NBC as a producer, the video showed.
“I work for NBC,” Morrison told the officer.
“For NBC? NBC? You’re a reporter?” Officer Jones-Denson asked.
“Producer,” the driver replied in the video.
“Producer? Alright,” Officer Jones-Denson said.
Then someone off camera asked the officer if the driver was media and why he was following him.
“Were you following a vehicle?” Officer Jones-Denson asked Morrison.
“I was trying to see – I was being called by New York going – maybe these are the people you need to follow. But I don’t know. I was trying to…” the driver explained.
“Trying to what?” the officer asked in the video.
“Just do what they told me to do,” Morrison replied.
“New York told you to follow a vehicle?” Officer Jones-Denson asked.
“Yes,” Morrison admitted.
“Your offices in New York or what?” the officer followed up on his question.
“That’s right,” the NBC producer replied in the video.
“How did they know about this vehicle?” Officer Jones-Denson asked.
“I don’t know,” Morrison told him in the video. “I mean it was discreet, I wasn’t like gonna talk to anybody or anything, just trying to find a location, that’s all.”
Officer Jones-Denson asked Morrison for more detail about who had directed him to follow the vehicle, and the producer gave up the name of his New York producer.
That was when the officer asked Morrison to call whomever had told him to follow the van, the video showed.
“We’re trying to figure out what’s going on here, why you have a reporter or a producer following vehicles out here,” Officer Jones-Denson told the producer on speakerphone who then identified herself as “Irene, a booking producer with NBC News.”
“We were just trying to – respectfully just trying to see if it’s possible to um find any leads about um the case, and so we were um we were just keeping our distance, just to see where people involved in the trial um are positioned,” Byon explained in the video.
“By no means were we trying to get in contact with any of the jury members or whoever is in the car, we just were trying to see like where key players in the trial may be at,” the producer claimed.
It is important to note that at no point in the video had the driver or Officer Jones-Denson referenced the fact that the vehicle Morrison was following was the jury van.
Byon was the first to bring up the fact that an NBC employee had been told to follow the jury and figure out where they were being taken, the video showed.
At that point, Morrison offered up copies of letters that he said were to the jury requesting interviews after the verdict.
The officer asked Byon if she had told Morrison to follow a specific vehicle, but she didn’t answer that question in the video.
“We just had our people positioned in different areas of the courthouse to see if anyone like would be able to – in different areas … following um different (unintelligible),” Byon stuttered.
“We’re going to ask you guys to not do that,” Officer Jones-Denson told the producer. “That’s a concern here. This is huge. We can’t afford anything crazy happening, putting people in dangerous positions.”
“Got it. Understood. Thank you very much. We’re very sorry,” Byon told the officer.
“I’m very sorry,” Morrison added.
“Do you have any ties to this community?” the officer asked him a moment later.
“I love this community. I’ve covered a lot of golf… not the Kenosha community itself, no sir,” Morrison admitted.
Morrison sat in the car muttering to himself that he had friends there and repeated that he was sorry to the officer, the video showed.
The bodycam ended after the officer confirmed Byon’s title at NBC.
Watch the incident unfold in the video below: