A corrections officer guarding a now empty prison threatened to have a news crew arrested because they were recording outside the facility while working on a story that had nothing to do with the Mount McGregor Correctional Facility.
The crew from NewsChannel 13 were working on a story about the cottage of former president Ulysses S. Grant, who passed away in the home 129 years ago this week. The cottage happens to be on the same mountain as the former prison, not that there is any law against recording a prison from a public road anyway.
But a Lt. Dorn sped up in his car and told them they had to leave the mountain because they did not get permission from state officials.
Reporter Mark Mulholland handled it perfectly, assertively but never failing to see the humor in such a bizarre scenario.
They tried to drive up to Grant’s Cottage, which is a tourist attraction open to the public, but a corrections officer blocked the road with his car, which prevented other cars from entering.
Realizing the problem, the corrections officer allowed the other cars to enter the road, but then insisted on driving very slow in front of Mulholland’s car to prevent him from reaching the cottage in a timely manner.
When they finally got to Grant’s cottage, the news crew noticed another film crew on the prison grounds appearing to work on some type of documentary but maybe they had the special permission the corrections officer was seeking.
Not having the power to arrest, the corrections officers called state police and demanded their footage be confiscated.
The state cop pulled them over and, of course, he proved to be clueless as to what to do, so the news crew had to spend the next hour on the phone with their newsroom leaders, state police and department of corrections officials before they were finally able to leave without handing over the footage.
“In more than 20 years in the business, I rarely encountered anything like this,” Mulholland said.
According to the NewsChannel 13 story:
On their way back down the mountain, as the news crew attempted to leave, Doran 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.
Doran 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.
The news crew weren’t the first people to have issues with those guards.
From a 2012 post on a travel blog called the Road Junkies:
After an excellent lunch at Wheatfield’s and one last letterbox in Saratoga Springs, we headed north for Lake George where we’ll spend the next couple of days. Between the two towns lay the Grant Cottage, where Ulysses S. Grant spent his final days. Following the signs to the Grant Cottage from the town of Wilton, we were scratching our heads when the signs pointed the way to the guardhouse for Mt. McGregor Correctional Facility.
When we told the guard we would like to visit the Grant Cottage, he barked that it wasn’t open and when we asked, he replied that of course, we couldn’t just drive by it, so we continued to Lake George. After arriving at our hotel, we did our laundry, ate our dinner from the local grocery store salad bar, and rested up for some exploration of the Adirondacks tomorrow.