Should Valley News Live Have Disclosed Status Of Sex Offender In Their Story?


Last night Valley News Live ran a story about Jessie Johnson, a man living in the Grand Forks area who was apparently being evicted because of his service dog (Valley News Live mistakenly reports East Grand Forks as being in North Dakota, but it is in Minnesota).

EAST GRAND FORKS, N.D. — We’ve all heard that dog is man’s best friend and that’s certainly how an East Grand Forks man who’s also a disabled veteran sees it. But, he and his family have been told by their landlord to be out in three days, because of a doctor-approved nine-week-old assistance dog.

Phoenix, a four-legged family member has caused some uproar with Green Acres apartment management in East Grand Forks and has a family of three on the verge of packing.

“It’s frustrating where someone can discriminate against another with disabilities not letting people have their service animals,” said Jessie Johnson.

The thing is, Jessie Johnson is a registered sex offender in the State of North Dakota stemming from a conviction for Criminal Sexual Conduct in the 4th Degree in Meeker County, Minnesota.

Johnson was sentenced to, among other things, 90 days in jail and a requirement to register as a sex offender which he’s done in the State of North Dakota. Here’s his listing from the state’s database:

Johnson was originally charged with three other felonies, but those were dismissed. Here’s the Minnesota statute he was convicted of violating.

On Valley News Live’s Facebook page viewers aware of Johnson’s criminal history objected to the sympathetic story about his eviction, but a the VNL reporter responsible for the story says it wasn’t pertinent:

Valley News Live news director Ike Walker echoed that sentiment telling me via email that “unless the landlord states that [Johnson’s criminal record is] the reason for the conviction [sic] it’s not pertinent to the story.”

By “conviction” I’m sure Walker meant eviction.

According to the original VNL story, the reason for the conviction was the dog. There’s no indication that the landlord was making an issue out of Johnson’s criminal record. Yet, clearly, many viewers (and SAB readers given the number of emails I’m getting) thought it should have been included.

Do you agree?

Update: Walker has contacted me saying Valley News Live has a copy of a letter from the landlord stating the explicit reason for the eviction was the dog and nothing else. He reiterated his feelings that Johnson’s past crime had nothing to do with the story.

Update 10/22/2014: Here’s a copy of the eviction letter, sent to me by the folks at Valley News Live, which makes no mention of Mr. Johnson’s past crime.


Full disclosure: I have been paid by Valley News Live for guest hosting spots, and SAB is currently a partner with the news station for public polling in North Dakota’s elections.