Updated: July 24, 2014 11:32 PM
Created: July 24, 2014 07:07 PM
WILTON - A NewsChannel 13 crew was threatened with arrest on Thursday. It happened as they were working on a story about the historic Grant Cottage in Wilton where President Ulysses S. Grant spent his final days.
The cottage is located on Mount McGregor near the correctional facility that's scheduled to close this weekend.
Corrections employees who are still working at the empty prison made every attempt to stop Mark Mulholland from doing his job.
Mulholland says in more than 20 years in the business, he’s rarely encountered anything quite like this.
Grant's Cottage is located at the top of Mount McGregor. Wednesday was the 129th anniversary of Grant's death there.
NewsChannel 13 shot some of the re-enactment Wednesday and Mulholland and his photographer were assigned to go back there Thursday to get some additional shots.
As they were doing a piece on-camera, in the shadows of the empty Mount McGregor prison, a man who identified himself as a corrections lieutenant came speeding towards the crew in a car.
Mulholland and photographer Matt Soriano spoke with the lieutenant.
“No filming,” said the officer, who identified himself as Lt. Dorn.
“We’re doing a story on Grant’s Cottage,” Mulholland tried to explain.
“It doesn’t matter,” the officer continued. After a few more exchanges he then said ,“You’re going to leave the mountain now.”
“You’re telling us we can’t visit a historic site?” Mulholland asked.
“No, you’re going to have to run that through Albany,” the officer replied, saying the news crew was on state ground.
“Look, I’m not going to go around with you on this. You’re going to leave the property,” the officer insisted.
So our crew proceeded to make its way closer to Grant's Cottage.
However, another corrections employee parked his car across the road, denying and blocking the crew’s access to the historic site.
After several minutes, he moves his car to allow other visitors to get to and from Grant's Cottage and slowly inches his car along in front of our crew. Ironically, once there, Mulholland and Soriano noticed a film crew, apparently shooting a movie on the grounds of the prison.
On their way back down the mountain, as the news crew attempted to leave, Dorn had called the state police and ask them to detain the journalists and demanded their video.
“If I’m a member of the public, and I’m taking pictures of Grant’s Cottage, and there’s a facility right behind it,” Mulholland started to say before getting cut off.
“If we’re aware that facility is in the background, those photos will be confiscated,” the officer said.
Dorn told the crew if they didn’t hand over their video they would be arrested.
After roughly an hour and calls between newsroom leadership, state police, and the Department of Corrections, our crew was allowed to leave without surrendering the video.
The state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision released a statement to NewsChannel 13 late Thursday afternoon that reads:
"We regret that this situation escalated, however the WNYT news crew blatantly disregarded a state officer who informed them they were trespassing. Department regulations state that photographs taken while on Prison property require prior permission. This policy is for the safety of all staff, visitors and prisoners."
NewsChannel 13 wants to point out that our crew tried to leave the grounds and there are no prisoners at the facility.
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