by Brian Shilhavy
Editor, Health Impact News
In a move that can only be interpreted as an attempt to restrict free speech and deny the 1st Amendment right of freedom of the press, Alabama Circuit Judge Corey B. Moore had Health Impact News reporter Terri LaPoint escorted into his courtroom yesterday to give her a stern warning.
Investigative reporter Terri LaPoint commented:
I had no idea that I would be taken into court today! I was simply outside (the courtroom) as a friend of the family when they called me in. I was only dressed in a t-shirt and jeans, since I never intended to enter the courtroom.
Mrs. LaPoint was at the courthouse with the Prince family who had a hearing that day regarding one of the newborn babies that was taken away from the parents by DHR recently. Mrs. LaPoint has reported on the family and their fight against Alabama DHR which has removed two newborn nursing babies recently while still in the hospital at the time of birth. Her original story quickly went viral and was read by over 1 million people in the first 24 hours.
Alabama Child Protective Services Steals New-born Breast-feeding Baby from Rape Victim While Still at the Hospital
Mrs. LaPoint relates how the court-appointed attorney for one of the young mothers who was at court that day explained to her that the lead counsel for DHR allegedly wanted to call her in and put her on the witness stand. They were allegedly upset with our reporting on these stories. The attorney appointed to the family allegedly objected, stating that she had no legal counsel at the moment and was not part of the case, but the judge ordered her to be brought into the courtroom anyway.
Once Mrs. LaPoint was escorted into the courtroom, Judge Moore asked her what her name was, and forbid her to record anything. He then told her that because she did not have legal counsel present, she did not have to make any comments or answer any questions.
Mrs. LaPoint reports that Judge Moore then warned her that she should retain legal counsel, and become familiar with the confidentiality laws regarding juveniles in Alabama.
The court-appointed attorney for the Prince family then apparently told Mrs. LaPoint on her way out that this was not strictly a “gag order,” but that the judge was upset and wanted her to “play ball.”
Attempts to Silence the Media and Reporting DHR Activities in Alabama
So what is going on in Alabama? How can a judge sitting on a bench hearing a case currently in session have the authority to pull in someone off the street who is not part of the case, without a subpoena and with no legal representation, and who is also a member of press, and basically threaten her?
There is an obvious concerted effort in Shelby County, Alabama to silence those who are reporting facts regarding DHR activities and snatching newborn babies from hospitals.
When the family we reported on showed up in court last Friday (June 24th) for the hearing on the 14 year old alleged rape-victim mother who had her baby taken away at birth (story here), almost everyone present who had shown up in support of the family and had reported on these events were slapped with a lawsuit filed in Shelby County by a GAL (Guardian ad litem) that was appointed to represent the new-born baby. The lawsuit was demanding that all material published on the Internet and Social Media regarding DHR taking this new-born child away from his mother be removed. Read the full story here:
How can an appointed GAL of a new-born baby, whose mother apparently still has parental rights, take out a lawsuit on behalf of the baby and have that baby sue everyone, including his own great-grandparents? And since this was filed in a civil court, how can they demand that the lawsuit be sealed? Could this happen in any U.S. court of law outside of Alabama?
Just to recap the facts from the original story, Terri LaPoint of Health Impact News, along with Juda Myers of Choices4Life, were actually present at the hospital at the request of the family when the baby was born. They witnessed first hand how DHR and the local sheriff department came in without a warrant, without the baby being in imminent danger, and subsequently take that baby away from his breast-feeding mother and great-grandparents.
Where is the Local Media in this Story? Are they too Afraid to Publish the Truth?
In the almost 2 years that Health Impact News has been covering these types of stories through our MedicalKidnap.com website, we have almost always had local media pick up stories we break that go viral in social media.
So why is that not happening in Alabama?
I have issued an invitation to any journalist in Alabama who would like to become a whistleblower and explain this censorship, and I issue the invitation again. We will agree to keep your identity hidden if requested.
Others have emailed us and stated that they believe the media is too afraid to report on these types of stories.
One story that was brought to our attention was the story of Alabama blogger Roger Shuler, of Legal Schnauzer. Shuler was arrested in Alabama for refusing to take down material from his blog.
Shuler’s case drew national attention, due to the obvious 1st Amendment violations allegedly committed by Alabama courts. Mr. Shuler apparently made many enemies in Alabama with his rhetoric, and was involved in some defamation lawsuits, but his arrest in Alabama and alleged violation of 1st Amendment rights shocked people all across the nation.
As the New York Times reported:
But even those who longed for his muzzling, and there are many, did not see it coming like this: with Mr. Shuler sitting in jail indefinitely, and now on the list of imprisoned journalists worldwide kept by the Committee to Protect Journalists. There, in the company of jailed reporters in China, Iran and Egypt, is Mr. Shuler, the only person on the list in the Western Hemisphere.
‘It seems to me that the judge’s order was really way out of bounds,’ said David Gespass, a civil rights lawyer in Birmingham, who was further troubled by the judge’s initial decision to keep the case under seal.
Mr. Shuler continued blogging. On Oct. 23, the police followed Mr. Shuler as he pulled into his driveway, arrested him in his garage and took him to jail on charges of contempt and resisting arrest.
In the hyperpartisan corners of the blogosphere where Mr. Shuler was already known, there was shock. Even some of his dedicated foes were alarmed.
The National Bloggers Club, a group led by the Republican activist Ali Akbar, who has also threatened to sue Mr. Shuler for defamation, released a statement condemning Mr. Shuler’s ‘rumormonger cyberbullying’ but also criticizing the injunction as creating a potential chilling effect on blogging.
The state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union filed a ‘friend of the court’ brief, and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press sent a letter to the judge.
Read the full story at the New York Times.
In the end, after serving 5 months in jail, Mr. Shuler feared for his well-being and had his wife take down the offending material from the blog:
Roger Shuler said that he and his wife took down the material after all this time because he realized that complying with the court was necessary for his own security.
‘I saw no other way to get out of jail. After five months in a very difficult environment … I felt my physical well-being was at stake,’ Shuler said. ‘I had hoped to get outside legal representation that could get my release on lawful grounds. But that was very slow in developing, so I just had to make a move for what I considered to be my own survival.’ (Source: Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.)
Shelby County Sheriff Deputy’s Article Criticizing Alabama DHR Disappears
In an article we published on June 24th, Health Impact News Named in Alabama Lawsuit for Exposing State-sponsored Child Kidnapping, we published a video of Alabama Officer Edmunson telling family members and friends inside the hospital where the 14 year old alleged rape-victim mother was sitting with her new-born baby that DHR did not need a warrant to take away her baby.
We also published excerpts from an article written in December of 2015 by Shelby County Sheriff Deputy Lee Stockman titled “Alabama DHR and Due Process Concerns” which was published on LinkedIn, and seemed to completely disagree with Officer Edmunson. That article has now apparently been removed.
Sheriff Deputy Stockman has not yet replied to Health Impact News’ request for an explanation as to why it was removed.
Health Impact News will be republishing Mr. Stockman’s excellent expose on the legal concerns of the practices of Alabama DHR under the Fair Use rule. (Article now published here.)
DHR and Alabama Court Want to Silence Family, Friends, and the Media – But Alabama Politicians Are Free to Defame Family
When we published our first story on the Prince family, regarding the 14 year old alleged rape-victim mother having her baby taken away by DHR at birth, people became outraged and wanted to know how to help. We posted links to contact the governor of Alabama as well as local legislators who represent the district where the Prince family lives.
One of the local legislators that represents the family is Alabama State Senator Cam Ward. People who contacted Senator Ward received a response, and this is what he told one reader:
So while DHR, Erin B. Welborn (GAL for the newborn baby who has sued everyone) and Judge Moore wants to restrict the media and the family from talking about this case, others who work for the State of Alabama, such as Senator Cam Ward, are openly disseminating information and making accusations against the family, such as Senator Ward’s statement above that the family has a “history of incidents involving drugs and domestic violence,” something the family vehemently denies.
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