Jury finds Ramona freelance journalist innocent of obstruction at accident scene

By Karen Brainard

A jury found freelance journalist and videographer James “JC” Playford of Ramona not guilty Sept. 11 of delaying and obstructing law enforcement at a 2012 State Route 67 accident.

“It took 12 men and women less than two hours to get it right...to take in all the information from all these professionals to determine what Mr. Playford is doing is legal,” he said.

At the May 25, 2012, fatal three-vehicle accident near SR-67 and Rockhouse Road, Playford was blocked from advancing toward the scene while videotaping because he did not have a San Diego Police Department-issued press credential. A detective said Playford challenged deputies to arrest him, which they did on suspected charges of California Penal Code 148 (PC 148), a misdemeanor that prohibits someone from resisting, delaying or obstructing an officer while he is performing his duties.

It is a charge that Playford has faced before as he fights what he says is local government control over media. Government agencies should not be in the business of issuing press passes, he said, adding they are restricting his rights as a member of the media.

Since Aug. 27, Playford said he has beaten four PC 148 cases against him. In addition to the case stemming from the accident, three other recent cases involving his arrest while filming — at Cardiff State Beach, San Ysidro Port of Entry, and in Mira Mesa — were dismissed. Not only has Playford been arrested, but he has had his camera and raw footage seized, he said.

Playford works as an agent of American News and Information Services Inc., which bills itself as a news and information company that operates throughout the United States. Although Playford has a press credential from American News, he said that without an SDPD press pass, he has been denied access at crime and accident scenes. The SDPD granted him a press badge in April.

Playford and American News owner Edward Peruta, who lives in Connecticut and in San Diego, have filed a lawsuit against multiple law enforcement agencies, claiming those agencies are obstructing his rights as a member of the press under the First, Fourth and 14th amendments.

   
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