Politics

Judge in Kyle Rittenhouse trial bars MSNBC from courthouse after freelancer is accused of following jurors' bus

Key Points
  • The judge overseeing Kyle Rittenhouse's trial banned MSNBC from the courthouse after a freelance producer working for the network was accused of following a jury bus the previous night.
  • The man accused of following the bus identified himself as James J. Morrison.
  • He identified himself as a producer for NBC News employed by MSNBC, according to Judge Bruce Schroeder.
  • NBC News said the man involved was a freelancer and that he had "received a traffic citation" near the vehicle carrying the jurors. 
Judge Bruce Schroeder speaks during Kyle Rittenhouse's trial at the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha, November 18, 2021.
Sean Krajacic | Pool | Reuters

The judge overseeing Kyle Rittenhouse's trial banned MSNBC from the courthouse in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Thursday after a freelance producer working for the network was accused of following a bus carrying jurors the previous night. 

"I have instructed that nobody from MSNBC news be permitted in this building for the duration of this trial," Judge Bruce Schroeder said during a hearing. 

VIDEO1:1301:13
Rittenhouse judge accuses freelance reporter for MSNBC of tailing jury van

"This is a very serious matter, and I don't know what the ultimate truth of it is, but absolutely it would go without much thinking that someone who is following a jury bus, that is a very ... that is an extremely serious matter and will be referred to the proper authorities for further action," the judge continued. 

Schroeder said the man who allegedly followed the bus identified himself as James J. Morrison and claimed he was a producer for NBC News employed by MSNBC. 

Kenosha police pulled Morrison over because he was allegedly following a block behind the bus and drove through a red light at one point, Schroeder said. Morrison told officers that a supervisor in New York instructed him to follow the bus, according to the judge. 

The Kenosha Police Department said in a statement Thursday afternoon that a person "alleging to be affiliated with a national media outlet" was briefly taken into custody and issued several traffic citations. The department noted that "no breach of security" took place and the person did not take any photos.

An investigation into the incident is being conducted, the department added. 

In a statement, NBC News said the man involved was a freelancer and that he had "received a traffic citation" near the vehicle carrying the jurors. 

"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," an NBC News spokesperson said in a statement Thursday afternoon. "We regret the incident and will fully cooperate with the authorities on any investigation." 

Schroeder's decision to ban MSNBC from the courtroom comes one day after he blasted news coverage of the Rittenhouse trial.  

"When I talked about problems with the media when this trial started, we're there in part," Schroeder said Wednesday during a hearing. "Not fully, but in part because of grossly irresponsible handling of what comes out of this trial."

The judge added that he would think "long and hard" about allowing cameras for live coverage of future trials. 

"I've always been a firm believer in it because I believe the people should be able to see what's going on but when I see what's being done it's really quite frightening," Schroeder continued. 

The jury in the trial is in its third day of deliberations.

Rittenhouse, 18, is on trial after killing two men and wounding another with an AR-style semi-automatic rifle during protests over the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, in Kenosha last year. 

Rittenhouse, then 17 years old and a former police youth cadet, shot and killed Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26. He wounded Gaige Grosskreutz, now 28. Rittenhouse, as well as those shot, are white. 

He could get life in prison if convicted of first-degree intentional homicide, the most serious of the five charges against him. Rittenhouse testified that he acted in self-defense.

On Wednesday, Rittenhouse's attorneys asked the judge to declare a mistrial as the jury was deliberating. They claimed the defense received an inferior copy of a potentially crucial video from prosecutors.

Disclosure: NBCUniversal is the parent company of CNBC and MSNBC.