BENTONVILLE — Benton County Circuit Judge Brad Karren sentenced a local television reporter to three days in jail Tuesday after he found her in contempt of court for recording a hearing in a murder case.
Nkiruka Azuka Omeronye, a reporter for KNWA/Fox 24 admitted in court to audio recording the Oct. 7 proceedings in a hearing in Mauricio Torres’ capital murder case.
“Your honor, I would like to say I realize this is a sensitive case,” Omeronye said. “I did not mean to disrespect you or your courtroom.”
Omeronye said she recorded the proceedings only for note taking purposes to ensure accuracy and never intended to broadcast it.
She worked at stations in St. Paul and Phoenix where reporters were allowed to audio record in courtrooms, she testified.
Omeronye said she never read an order Karren entered in June that prohibited any recording in the courtroom. There’s also rules by the Arkansas Supreme Court that prohibit any form of recordings without the judge’s permission.
Karren also has a sign on the front door to his courtroom that warns against using any electronic device to record any court proceedings. There are three other similar signs in the lobby area.
Omeronye said she didn’t see the signs.
Jonathan Nelson, Omeronye's attorney, told the judge he believe his client didn’t intend to disobey the court’s ruling.
“I believe she learned her lesson, and jail time is not something necessary to teach her this lesson,” he said.
Karren found that Omeronye deliberately recorded the proceedings and rule her in contempt of the court. He placed her on six months probation and ordered her to serve 10 days in the Benton County jail. He suspended seven of the days, which means she will have to serve three days.
Omeronye is scheduled to begin serving her sentence Wednesday. She will be allowed to leave the jail in order to go to work.
Karren told Omeronye she was trespassed from his court, which means she can’t cover Torres’ murder trial. He noted the case has been tried once and said he cannot afford another mishap.
“I think you have shown the proper remorse,” Karren said. “I don’t think you were thumbing your nose at the court.”
Karren did say he believes Omeronye's employers let her down by not making her aware of the court’s rules.
CORRECTION: The reporter's name was misspelled in an earlier version of this story. Her name is Nkiruka Azuka Omeronye.