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Campus newspapers taken: FHP officer implicated

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Updated: 7/25/2013 9:13 am
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- It's back to business for student journalists at the Spinnaker.

Almost every week, nearly 4,000 copies of the UNF student-run paper are distributed around campus, but on June 13 between 2,600 and 3,000 copies were taken. Newspaper staff say campus surveillance video captures the disappointing moment when two men took at least 100 papers from a box near campus dorms.

"It wasn't our favorite day," said Reporter Connor Spielmaker, "because a lot of hard work goes into it."

Even more disappointing to Spielmaker, is the result of the state's investigation.

"The state attorney's office said it wasn't an actual crime because it's a free paper."

The state attorney's office confirms there's no monetary value to the paper, because the Spinnaker is available in unlocked boxes all over the UNF campus. While the paper charges a fee for each additional copy taken, there are no coin boxes to collect the fee. Therefore, by law, the state attorney's office determined taking the papers isn't a crime.

Students like Spielmaker disagree.

"It's free as far as you can open it and take one, but it's paid for. There's a subscription from student government on behalf of the students, as well as advertising and the hours put into it."

Spielmaker says Spinnaker staff reported the incident to University Police, and their investigation revealed that one of the men is a Florida Highway Patrol trooper. Spielmaker says UNF police called FHP.

"They said he wasn't on duty, and they said there was no internal investigation. I was like, OK well I guess no one is taking this seriously."

That prompted the student paper to do its own investigation. Spielmaker says the trooper soon called the paper with a message.

"He said he had taken them from the one location to cover up the police beat section, and the story about the video voyeurism guy who was his friend."

Action News confirmed a man named Joshua Hott was arrested in May by campus police.

"He did this, according to him, because he wanted to protect Joshua Hott's younger brother, and his brother is still a student here."

Action News contacted the Florida Highway Patrol's local office, who said they looked into the incident, but deferred further comment to the state office, which has not yet returned our calls.

Meanwhile, the Editor-in-Chief of the Spinnaker, Jacob Harn, says he hopes to persuade state lawmakers to protect all free publications in the future. Both Colorado and Maryland already have similar laws.

Joshua Hott is a former employee of this television station. He was not employed here at the time of his arrest.

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The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of Action News Jacksonville

whosaysnocan - 7/25/2013 6:16 AM
2 Votes
Using his "power" as an officer of the FHP is despicable. Trying to cover up a crime by a friend takes away the integrity of the position. Makes me wonder what else has this officer done to cover up other things. Shame on him.
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