Emily Welker, Published December 17 2013
West Fargo police say school district to decide whether TV reporter will be chargedWEST FARGO – Police here said school officials will decide whether a Valley News Live reporter will face a criminal charge for a hidden-camera story that showed her entering a West Fargo elementary school without permission.
A spokeswoman for the district said school officials haven’t decided whether to press charges.
The story, which was meant to focus on school security in the area, showed reporter Mellaney Moore walking into schools in West Fargo, Fargo and Moorhead without checking in at school offices. By city ordinance in Fargo and West Fargo and state law in Moorhead, visitors who fail to register at the office can face a misdemeanor charge.
West Fargo Assistant Police Chief Mike Reitan said the video appeared to show Moore walking past a sign posted at the West Fargo school that warns such conduct is a misdemeanor offense. However, Reitan said he had not personally viewed the video.
Reitan said the department prepared a report to send to the city attorney, and it would be up to school officials to decide whether to request the complaint be signed by the prosecutor.
In most crimes, Reitan said, such as when someone reports being the victim of a theft, it would be up to the victim to decide whether to pursue the complaint in court.
“In this case, the school owns the property,” he said. “[The school] is the one who’s violated.”
Only in rare instances, such as in domestic violence cases, can a case proceed without a victim’s cooperation, he said.
West Fargo school spokesperson Heather Konschak said school leaders had been waiting to hear back from police and had not yet decided whether to pursue the case against Moore.
“It’s kind of a lose-lose for us,” she said. “Part of you thinks it’s the right thing to do to show that you can’t just walk into schools.”
But, Konschak added, West Fargo school officials were also eager for the incident to be laid to rest.
Police in all three cities have said they’re investigating the Valley News Live reporter for possible charges linked to the report, which aired last week.
Fargo and Moorhead police officials said Tuesday their investigations had not yet been completed.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Emily Welker at (701) 241-5541