Reporter arrested in White Castle fiasco

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Chris Nakamoto, with a smile on his face, was led out of the building in handcuffs simply for doing his job.

Nakamoto is journalist who’s won Reporter of the Year, Best Investigative Reporter, and Story of the Year. His stories have led to the indictment of a Police Chief and recall of a local Mayor. None of that matters when requesting information in White Castle, Louisiana.

On March 23, 2016, Nakamoto went to talk to Monica Hamilton, the White Castle town clerk, and upon her refusal to meet, he was detained. Hamilton claims that Nakomoto attempted to enter a restricted area in order to ask her about his request. She got the attention of a police officer and had Nakomoto detained. After he refused to leave, he was led out in handcuffs.

The story differs on both sides. Apparently people close to the story say that Nakamoto was breaking no law. He made a request for an interview with Hamilton in the lobby. When she declined, a police officer came up and place handcuffs on him. Afterwards is when he refused to leave. “She told him she didn’t want to be on camera and she asked him to stop filming,” says attorney Valencia Vessel-Landry.

In response to the claims against him, his news station WBRZ placed a formal request for the camera records of the incident. According to the station, video shows that Nakamoto was in the lobby at the time of the alleged incident. Regardless, Nakomoto was issued a summons for a misdemeanor trespassing charge.

The reason that Nakomoto was there in the first place was because of a news story he was following up on. White Castle had recently lost a lawsuit involving public records. Two citizens felt as if they were being ignored their requests to view records dealing with the increase in pay of Mayor Jemarr Williams. Nakomoto had sent three different requests for information regarding Mayor Williams salary to White Castle. He’d received two of the three records he’d been looking for, but not the last one. When he went to the office, he was asking about the status of his last request.

The news station issued this statement about the incident: “WBRZ stands by Chief Investigator Chris Nakamoto. That’s first and foremost. The public expects this news organization to ask tough questions and hold the powerful accountable. Our reporters are not going to be intimidated by public officials when we are getting you answers. Station management is looking into all legal remedies regarding this incident.”

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