State lawmaker wants newspapers not to print controversial photos

A Nevada lawmaker who has proposed limits on the use of photographs by newspapers says the idea came from a constituent who felt he was unfairly portrayed in news stories and pictures.

Assemblyman Lynn Hettrick, R-Gardnerville, said there may be difficult First Amendment hurdles to overcome in drafting the legislation, but his constituent has the right to have his issue heard.

The constituent is ex-Douglas High School teacher Dan Paterson, who admitted to grabbing Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School girl's basketball coach by the collar during a dispute over a losing effort in a game against Eagle Valley Middle School.

Hettrick said Paterson complained that the incident was blown out of proportion by The Record-Courier newspaper in Douglas County.

The paper reported in its Feb. 5 edition that Paterson pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor battery charge and agreed to undergo an anger management evaluation as a result of the incident.

According to a Nevada Appeal story, Paterson received a suspended 90-day jail sentence on the condition that there would be no further misconduct.

Paterson told reporters at the time that he would rather speak to the coach face to face and "look him in the eyes, shake his hand and apologize."

Hettrick said Paterson felt he was treated unfairly by the newspaper, which he claimed never gave him a chance to comment.

''He (Paterson) said the papers ran a mug shot that made him look like a criminal,'' Hettrick said.

The bill draft sought by Hettrick says only that his measure would ''restrict use by newspapers of photographs of persons under certain circumstances.''

However, Record-Courier Editor Sheila Gardner said Paterson was quoted in a story after the Oct. 26 incident and was given several chances to speak during subsequent proceedings.

"We gave Mr. Paterson and his attorney, Mark Jackson, ample opportunity to comment before and after the sentencing and they both declined," Garder said. "Mr. Paterson was quoted in a previous story on the incident."

Nevada Press Association Executive Director Kent Lauer questioned why such an idea would even be considered.

''It should be dead on arrival at the Legislature because it's a blatant violation of the First Amendment,'' he said. ''It is a waste of taxpayer money to have legislative staff draft such a measure. It's government censorship, plain and simple.''


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