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Profile: Randy DeSoto

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Randy DeSoto was a participant or observer in the following events:

The campaign of Joe Miller (R-AK), a candidate for US Senate in Alaska, releases a pair of statements following Miller’s security guards detaining and handcuffing a reporter for attempting to ask Miller questions after a public event in Anchorage (see October 17, 2010). The first statement is a single paragraph from William Fulton, the owner of “The Drop Zone,” a private security firm whose guards, employed by Miller’s campaign, handcuffed and restrained Alaska Dispatch reporter Tony Hopfinger. Fulton himself was one of the guards who handcuffed Hopfinger. In his statement, Fulton accuses Hopfinger of “assaulting” one of his guards, and claims that because the school district rented the space to the campaign, his guards had the right to declare anyone in trespass. He says Hopfinger was “stalking” Miller and posed a security threat. The statement from the Miller campaign, entitled “Liberal Blogger ‘Loses It’ at Town Hall Meeting,” accuses Hopfinger, the editor of the Alaska Dispatch newspaper, of being “an irrational blogger” attempting to “create a publicity stunt” by assaulting someone during the event. The statement says Miller’s guards were forced to take action to restrain the “irrational” Hopfinger. “It is also important to note that the security personnel did not know that the individual they detained was a blogger who reporting on the campaign [sic],” the statement continues. Miller campaign spokesman Randy DeSoto refuses to comment or make Miller, himself a witness, available for news interviews. [Alaska Dispatch, 10/17/2010; Anchorage Daily News, 10/18/2010]
Miller's Statement - The statement reads in full: “The Miller campaign was required by the facility to provide security at the event. Even though Joe had spent nearly an hour freely answering questions from those in attendance, the blogger chased Miller to the exit after the event concluded in an attempt to create and then record a ‘confrontation’ with the candidate. While Miller attempted to calmly exit the facility, the blogger physically assaulted another individual and made threatening gestures and movements towards the candidate. At that point the security personnel had to take action and intervened and detained the irrational blogger, whose anger overcame him. It is also important to note that the security personnel did not know that the individual they detained was a blogger who reporting on the campaign. To them, the blogger appeared irrational, angry, and potentially violent.” [Joe Miller, 10/17/2010; Crooks and Liars, 10/18/2010]
Security Guard Insists He Had Legal Authority to Handcuff Reporter - Interviewed by a reporter from the Alaska Dispatch, Fulton says he and his guards pushed Hopfinger into a wall and handcuffed him because he refused to leave a private event and was trespassing. The event, which was clearly public, was indeed private, Fulton says, and Hopfinger should have been aware of that because of the “Joe Miller for Senate” signs outside the venue, an Anchorage middle school. “They leased it for a private event,” Fulton says. “It wasn’t a public place.” That, he says, gave him the legal authority to tell Hopfinger to leave, then grab him and handcuff him when he didn’t do as told. Hopfinger says he was given no warning and no opportunity to leave. He says he had no idea who Fulton was. The security guard was in a black suit, not a uniform, Hopfinger says, and refused to identify himself. “He throws me up against the wall,” Hopfinger states. “He handcuffs me,” and even then, Hopfinger says, Fulton refused to identify himself. Hopfinger says he was attempting to get Miller to answer questions about disciplinary hearings he faced while a lawyer with the Fairbanks North Star Borough, questions Miller has repeatedly refused to address. Fulton states that he and his fellow guards restrained Hopfinger because the reporter was “getting really pushy with Joe. Joe was trying to get away from him.” Fulton goes on to state that he was suspicious of Hopfinger because the reporter “had something in his hand,” but admits he knew Hopfinger was not carrying a weapon. “It could have been a camera,” he says. “It could have been a recording device. It could have been an iPhone.” Hopfinger was carrying, and using, a video camera. According to Fulton, when his guards surrounded Hopfinger, the reporter “shoulder checked a guy into a locker.” Fulton says whomever Hopfinger pushed aside “wasn’t one of our guys. It could have been anyone. [But] I saw that shoulder check as being violent.” Hopfinger says he was trying to get some room from the crowd of guards and Miller supporters pressing in on him, and only remembers touching Fulton. He says he did not “shoulder check” anyone, and says he put his hand on Fulton’s chest to try to push him away. “I was being pushed into a lot of people,” Hopfinger says. “I used my hand. It all happened in seconds. He said it was a private event. He grabbed me and said, ‘You’re under arrest.’” Fulton says as a private security guard he has the authority to police “private events,” but refuses to answer questions about how this particular event, billed as a public gathering at a public school, could be private. The Alaska Dispatch writes: “The meeting was open to the public. There were no names taken at the door. Reporters were not asked to apply for credentials.” Fulton insists, “This is a simple trespassing issue,” but no one else “trespassing” in the hallway with Hopfinger was detained. Fulton admits that others in the hallway may have been reporters, and says: “I think we told them [all] to leave. It’s not a public [place] if it’s leased. It was a private event… because it’s a private event, and we’ve taken over the school.” [Alaska Dispatch, 10/17/2010; Anchorage Daily News, 10/18/2010]
Witness: Guards Overreacted, Miller Shoved Her, Knocked Over Young Boy - A witness to the incident says while Hopfinger was rude, he did not threaten Miller and the guards overreacted. Lolly Symbol, a Miller supporter from Big Lake, drove to the rally with her two young sons to ask Miller about his stance on gun control. She says she received the opportunity just after the town hall event, when Miller spoke with a few people outside the main room. She says she was standing next to Miller when Hopfinger began questioning him. According to Symbol, Miller was already angry with another questioner, an elderly woman who asked him about his military background. “He ended up getting really huffy with her,” Symbol says. She began asking him her question, she recalls, when Hopfinger interrupted her with a camera and a question about the incident with Fairbanks North Star Borough. “I would say Tony was aggressive, and I would say he was rude because he interrupted me, but he didn’t do anything wrong and he wasn’t posing a threat to Miller,” Symbol says. Miller shoved her aside, Symbol says, and “bowled over” her eight-year-old son Vincent Mahoney in his attempt to get away from Hopfinger. “I don’t know if [Miller] didn’t see him or didn’t care, but he didn’t say ‘excuse me’ or ‘I’m sorry.’ He didn’t even turn his head,” Symbol recalls. “He simply did not care at all.” Hopfinger continued to try to question Miller, but the security guards blocked his access. “They kept pushing him back,” she recalls. “He kept saying, ‘I have a right to be here, I have a right to be asking these questions.’ Tony would try to walk forward and they would push him back.” Symbol says she did not see Hopfinger push anyone, though the reporter has said he did push someone he thought was a security guard who had bumped him to keep him back. Heidi Embley, a spokeswoman for the Anchorage School District, says security cameras were partially installed at the school but were not equipped with recording devices, so no video of the scene is available. Symbol says she attempted to give her statement to police, but no one would take her information. Of Hopfinger, she says: “I do not believe that he did anything wrong. He was rude and he was aggressive but that’s just what the press does. Legally he did not do anything wrong that deserved to be put in cuffs.” Of Miller and the incident, she says: “The whole thing just made me sick. I was a big supporter of Joe Miller, I really was. But not anymore.” [Alaska Dispatch, 10/18/2010]

Entity Tags: Tony Hopfinger, The Drop Zone, Joseph Wayne (“Joe”) Miller, Heidi Embley, Alaska Dispatch, Fairbanks North Star Borough, William Fulton, Vincent Mahoney, Lolly Symbol, Randy DeSoto

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

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