December 1, 2021 1:20pm
Updated: December 1, 2021 5:29pm
The Kenosha Police Department in Wisconsin has released body camera video showing an NBC News freelance producer telling officers during a traffic stop last month that he was following the vehicle transporting the jurors in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial.
The jurors had just finished their second full day of deliberations and left the courthouse in an unmarked van. They were being transported by the Kenosha County Sheriff's Department.
According to a police report of the incident, a black Nissan Pathfinder immediately began to follow the jury members and ran a red light while trying to keep up. Officers then called for Kenosha Police to perform a traffic stop on the Nissan.
The body camera footage shows an officer pulling over a man who said he's a producer for NBC. According to the police report, the man was identified as James Joseph Morrison, 62.
"Were you following a vehicle?" the officer asked.
"I was trying to see — I was being called by New York, going, maybe these are people you need to follow, but I, I don't know," Morrison responded.
"I was trying to ..." he continued before trailing off.
"You were trying to do what?" the officer asked.
"Just do what they told me to do," Morrison said.
"New York told you to follow a vehicle?" the officer asked.
The two continued their back and forth, with Morrison adding he was being discreet.
"I wasn't, like, you know, going to talk to anybody or anything. Just trying to find a location, that's all."
Morrison then called his New York office to speak to the person who told him to follow the jurors — a woman identified as Irene Byon, a booking producer for NBC News.
Byon explained to the officer that they were looking for leads about the case and trying to see "where key players in the trial may be at."
"By no means were we trying to get in contact with any of — any of the jury members or whoever's in the car," she added.
The officer then asked Byon and Morrison to stop what they were doing.
"We can't afford anything crazy happening," he said. "Putting people in dangerous positions. This individual violated some traffic laws here, doing this. So we're gonna ask you to refrain from doing that."
Both producers apologized before police took Morrison into custody and cited him for a red light violation. He's due to appear in court later this month.
After learning of the incident, Judge Bruce Schroeder, who presided over the Rittenhouse trial, banned MSNBC from the courthouse for the remainder of the trial.
"That is an extremely serious matter," he said.
Police had suspected Morrison was trying to photograph the jurors.
"Ultimately, there was no arrest for jury tampering because police interrupted any opportunity to do so," Kenosha Police Lt. Joseph Nosalik told Law&Crime.
In a statement after the incident last month, NBC News denied having plans to contact or photograph the jurors.
"Last night, a freelancer received a traffic citation," the network said. "While the traffic violation took place near the jury van, the freelancer never contacted or intended to contact the jurors during deliberations, and never photographed or intended to photograph them. We regret the incident and will fully cooperate with the authorities on any investigation."
It remains unclear what the network's goal was in following the jurors and what specifically Morrison's bosses instructed him to do. NBC News didn't respond to a request for comment on the release of the body camera footage and whether the network stands by its original statement.
Jurors ultimately acquitted Rittenhouse on all charges in the deaths of two men and wounding of a third that occurred during the riots in Kenosha after the police shooting of Jacob Blake.