St. Cloud State newspaper staff detained over meeting tape

ST. CLOUD, Minn. (AP) — Staff members of St. Cloud State University’s student newspaper were detained in their office while police demanded a tape recording from a public forum that could involve criminal allegations about local police.
Six newspaper staff members were kept for about two hours in the University Chronicle’s offices last week while St. Cloud police officers stood by the doors.
“They showed up with a search warrant that said they were ready to search the University Chronicle office,” said Ryan Voz, the newspaper’s editor. “It could have been used more as a scare tactic to hand over the tapes. Of the six people in the office, no one knew where the tapes were located.”
Police left last Thursday after talking with both the newspaper’s adviser and attorney.
St. Cloud Police Chief Dennis O’Keefe would not say what was on the tape the police were seeking but said the department was conducting a criminal investigation. Bill MacPhail, assistant Stearns County attorney, said there would not be another search attempt.
Voz said police told him only that the tape had to do with something said at university forum on racism in February,
Police turned to the student newspaper after an unsuccessful attempt to locate the comments on raw tape of the meeting belonging to university radio station KVSC.
The newspaper reported Friday that the search appeared to be linked to comments about the apparent suicide of a black man in January. The man’s mother, Shirley Dixon, said police did not give her much information about her son’s death.
O’Keefe said, “We have responded in every way we can in this situation.”
The search warrant violated a federal law that prevents newspapers from being searched unless they specifically are being investigated, said attorney Mark Anfinson, who represents the newspaper.
“One of the most mind-boggling things about this whole episode is that they would detain these staff members,” he said.
“We all agree that the newspaper will preserve the tape and that the city’s option is to seek a subpoena rather than a search warrant,” Anfinson said.
“We’re not the first call for help, and too often authorities try to make it that,” he said.