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EDITORIAL: You tell him, Hilde

York Dispatch Editorial Board
In this September 2015, photo provided by Matthew Lysiak, Hilde Kate Lysiak poses for a photo at her home in Selinsgrove, Pa. Lysiak, a 9-year-old reporter, recently wrote about a suspected murder in her small Pennsylvania town and is defending herself after some locals lashed out about a young girl covering violent crime.

An Arizona police officer reportedly didn’t want to hear any of that “freedom of the press stuff” from Hilde Kate Lysiak.

Too bad.

Sounds like Patagonia Marshal Joseph Patterson could have learned a thing or two about the First Amendment from the 12-year-old central Pennsylvania girl.

He might have avoided whatever mystery “action” the southern Arizona town took against Patterson following his confrontation with the pint-sized publisher of Selinsgrove-based Orange Street News.

Hilde knows her rights – she’s been breaking news since she was 9, according to a 2017 New York Times profile.

Here’s how Hilde, who posted on Orange Street News (OSN) that she’s in Arizona reporting on border issues, described the confrontation with Patterson in an article on her site:

“The OSN was biking down Roadrunner Lane investigating the tip at about 1:30 pm on February 18th when the reporter was stopped by Patagonia Marshal Joseph Patterson and asked for identification.

“The Orange Street News identified herself as a member of the media, including name and phone number.

“‘I don’t want to hear about any of that freedom of the press stuff,’ said Patterson.

“The Marshal continued ‘I’m going to have you arrested and thrown in juvey.’

“The Marshal didn’t have his lights on and passed several people who were on the streets without stopping them or questioning them.

“‘I can have you arrested, do you understand?’ the Marshal answered.”

“Asked why … the officer first said it was for ‘disobeying his command,’ then said it was for riding on the wrong side of the road. Finally, the officer said a Mountain Lion was spotted in the area despite (there) being other people in the area who were not kicked off the road.”

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It gets worse.

Hilde began taping her encounter with the desert lawman — and he didn’t like it.

“The video recording begins with Lysiak asking the marshal to confirm his threat to have her thrown in juvenile detention and asking him what she was doing that was illegal. Patterson begins to respond, then asks if she’s taping him,” according to the Nogales International, a newspaper covering the border town.

“‘You can tape me, OK. But what I’m going to tell you is if you put my face on the internet, it’s against the law in Arizona, OK?’ he says. ‘So I’m not giving you permission to use my picture or my face on the internet. Do you understand all that?’”

Bull hockey.

Dan Barr, a lawyer with the First Amendment Coalition of Arizona, told the Nogales International that the officer’s claims are “complete nonsense.”

“It is perfectly legal (to) post such a photo online,” he told the newspaper in an email, adding: “I hope this is not reflective of the Patagonia marshal threatening people with other nonexistent criminal violations.”

The newspaper notes federal courts “have established that citizens have a First Amendment right to take video of the police in public.”

Patagonia officials posted on the town website that it had received “many comments” about the marshal’s confrontation with the pre-teen girl.

“The matter has been carefully reviewed and we have taken action we believe to be appropriate for the situation. We do not publicly disclose personnel actions including discipline and will have no further comment on this matter.”

Well, that’s … vague.

If Patagonia wants its citizens to trust its law enforcers, it should explain exactly what rules Patterson violated – if that’s indeed what that the statement is saying – as well as the punishment for breaking those rules.

For instance, will the officer be required to learn about that “freedom of the press stuff”?

That should be the case.

And the Orange Street News and Nogales International should be required reading.

— This editorial has been corrected to reflect Hilde is 12, not 13.