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Ohio journalist arrested for publishing courtroom recording

Derek Myers/Facebook

A journalist at a southern Ohio newspaper faces a possible felony charge after posting secretly-recorded audio from a recent murder trial.

Scioto Valley Guardian managing editor Derek Myers covered the high-profile murder trial of George Wagner IV, one of four members of the Wagner family who were charged in the massacre of eight members of the Rhoden family in 2016.

Myers objected to Judge Randy Deering allowing Wagner’s brother Jake to opt-out of being recorded during his testimony.

“(Ohioans) should be allowed to know what’s happening during those proceedings,” Myers says.

He was escorted out of the courtroom and says he was out of the country when a source made the illegal recording and later gave it to him. He posted it to his newspaper’s website.

Even with U.S. Supreme Court precedent, Ohio law, and federal shield laws on his side, Myers was arrested on November 1 and charged with wiretapping, a fourth-degree felony in Ohio. Myers was arrested on a warrant obtained by Sgt. Joshua Saver of the Pike County Sheriff’s Office.

“It’s not our fault that the Pike County Sheriff’s Office and the Pike County Prosecutor is ignorant on the state and federal law. I would say that they probably need to research and get back up to date on the law,” Myers says.

Neither the Sheriff’s office nor Pike County Prosecutor Robert Junk responded to requests for comment.

His arrest has drawn the attention of organizations including the Society of Professional Journalists.

“When the First Amendment rights of one journalist are suppressed, all journalists are impacted,” said organization president Claire Regan said in an emailed statement. “SPJ stands by Derek Myers in his efforts to seek truth and report it, a guiding principle in the Society’s Code of Ethics.”

Myers says he still faces the felony wiretapping charge, but it’s scheduled to expire on January 2 if a grand jury declines to indict him. The Pike County grand jury meets again in February where it could consider criminal charges if they’re pursued by prosecutors.