Calls For Violence Against The Press Have Paid Off: Politician Accused Of Murdering Investigative Reporter
from the an-anomaly-but-a-truly-disturbing-one dept
Given the inalienable protections this country has determined are essential to democracy, the United States has only tolerated limited violence against journalists. Most of this violence is perpetrated by law enforcement officers who feel a fully functioning democracy demands they greet documentation of their acts with force or unjustified arrests.
This calculus shifted during the Trump years as the sitting president routinely made statements portraying journalists who did not portray him in a flattering manner as enemies of democracy. When the public revolted against police violence, Trump sent out federal officers to cow the populace back into subservience — something that often manifested as overt violence against journalists covering protests.
You don’t have to be a Trump fan to consider journalists dangerous. All you have to be is on the wrong side of history — even if it’s only hyper-local history. The rhetoric against journalists has increased over the past few years, resulting in public statements by elected officials that make it appear they wish they were presiding over regions in, say, China. Or Turkey.
Portraying journalists as dangerous has finally claimed a victim. And the alleged perpetrator appears to be someone who would never espouse Trump’s anti-journalistic views, much less vote for him. But when elections are on the line, journalists are the first against the wall. Here’s Lara Kote, reporting for Politico:
Police in Las Vegas have charged a local elected official with murder in connection with the stabbing death of Jeff German, an investigative reporter with the Las Vegas Review-Journal who had spent the last few months exposing misdeeds and turmoil in the official’s office.
Clark County Public Administrator Robert Telles, a 45-year-old Democrat, was taken into custody on Wednesday after police conducted a search in his home. On Thursday, Sheriff Joseph Lombardo told reporters Telles had been charged with murder after authorities found a positive match for Telles’ DNA with the genetic material found underneath German’s fingernails.
German had been digging into Telles’ apparent misconduct, including allegations of bullying, favoritism, and an inappropriate relationship with another government official. At the time of his alleged murder, German was in the process of obtaining records from the public administrator’s office.
Telles, the murder suspect, recently lost his reelection attempt. But while still in office, he had repeatedly attacked the long-time investigative journalist on Twitter, calling him a “bully” and referring to his investigative reporting as “smear pieces.”
For these slights (and Telles’ recent loss at the polls), it appears the former county official felt the journalist needed to be killed. There’s an apparent motive. And there’s also plenty of evidence.
Surveillance footage from Friday morning, the day of the killing, showed an individual in a long-sleeved orange T-shirt with reflective strips and a broad straw hat that covered the face. Police later recovered a similar hat from Telles’ home that had been cut into pieces, as well as a pair of shoes that matched those worn by the suspect in the video, which had also been cut, likely to destroy evidence, authorities said.
Police said surveillance video showed the killer leave the crime scene before returning a few minutes later in a maroon GMC Yukon Denali — which matched the description of a car registered to Telles’ wife.
Maybe something will come out in court that alters the narrative. Maybe there was motive above and beyond what appears to be little more than a government official deciding a Murder One count was the best way to deter future reporting about alleged misconduct. But, for now, these are the facts and allegations we have to work with. And it doesn’t say anything positive about the current relationship between public officials and the members of the public who are crucial to government accountability.