WILKES-BARRE — Two area reporters and a photographer waiting to interview city Police Chief Gerry Dessoye were threatened with a trespassing citation Tuesday after they crossed through a restricted parking lot behind the police station.
Officer Joe Sinavage initially told Times Leader reporter Terrie Morgan-Besecker, WBRE-TV reporter Joe Holden and WBRE photo journalist Tony Ingargiola they would be cited with trespassing. The citations were later rescinded after another officer, Bill Harden, spoke on the phone with Dessoye, who had left the building without the reporters' knowledge.
Morgan-Besecker, Holden and Christopher Hong, a reporter for The Citizens' Voice, were waiting outside the police station Tuesday evening in an attempt to get a comment from Dessoye regarding reports that city towing contractor Leo Glodzik III has loaned vehicles to police officers.
The reporters and photographer initially stood on a sidewalk outside of the parking lot, which is marked with a sign that says no pedestrian or vehicle traffic is permitted. Morgan-Besecker and Ingargiola crossed through the lot at one point, believing that Dessoye was leaving the police station from a different exit.
Sinavage was driving into the parking lot just as the reporter and photographer neared the end. He pointed out a sign that said only authorized personnel were permitted in the lot, then went into the building. A few minutes later he emerged and advised Morgan-Besecker and Ingargiola they would be cited with trespassing.
Holden, who was not witnessed in the parking lot by Sinavage, then told the officer he, too, had crossed through the lot, and was advised he'd be cited as well.
Sinavage obtained identification and was preparing to file the citations. Harden then advised the media members that he had contacted Dessoye by phone and was advised to let them go with a warning to stay off police property.
Joe Butkiewicz, executive editor of The Times Leader, defended Morgan-Besecker's decision to cut through the parking lot and questioned the police department's motives in threatening to issue the citations.
“I don't believe our reporter was using it as a thoroughfare or acting as a pedestrian. She was doing her job, trying to get a comment from the chief for our readers,” Butkiewicz said. “I believe they were attempting to keep us from doing our work.”