U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Man arrested for assaulting reporter outside of Trump’s reelection announcement rally

Incident Details

Date of Incident
June 18, 2019
Orlando, Florida


Was the journalist targeted?
REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

People chant “Fake News” as U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign kickoff rally in Orlando, Florida.

— REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
September 16, 2019 - Update

Man arrested on battery charge of journalist agrees to probationary deal

The case against a Florida man charged with battery of an Orlando Sentinel reporter during President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign event in June has been resolved pending the completion of a deal made with prosecutors.

According to public records, Daniel Patrick Kestner entered a not guilty plea on June 20, two days after the rally where he was arrested and charged with battery of Sentinel reporter Michael Williams. At a pretrial conference in August, Kestner was remanded to pretrial diversion, a probationary program used as an alternative to prosecution.

In the pretrial diversion records filed in Orange County on Sept. 16, 2019, Kestner agreed to attend an anger management class, perform 40 hours of alternative community service, and make monthly payments to the state for his supervision over the term of six months. Pending the successful completion of the program, the State of Florida agreed to drop the battery charge.

June 18, 2019

A Florida man was charged with battery after assaulting an Orlando Sentinel reporter on June 18, 2019, at the Amway Center in Orlando, where President Donald Trump was hosting a rally to launch his bid for re-election in 2020.

Sentinel reporter Michael Williams was filming at least three individuals with his cellphone as they were removed from the building. One of the men, later identified as Daniel Kestner, appeared to be engaged in a dispute with a second man, but his ire turned to Williams when he noticed that the journalist was filming the altercation.

Kestner then began to approach Williams, hurling curses and demanding that he stop filming them. When Williams didn’t comply with his demands, Kestner can be heard saying, “I promise you I’ll kick you in the nuts.”

The Sentinel reported that Williams retreated backward, but Kestner caught up to him and smacked his hand, attempting to knock the cellphone to the ground.

In the video, security officers can be seen immediately coming between Kestner and Williams, ordering Kestner to immediately leave the property.

Orange County Clerk records obtained by the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker show that Kestner was later arrested and charged with battery for “willingly striking” Williams. A first-degree misdemeanor, Kestner could face up to one year in jail if convicted.

According to a police report obtained by the Sentinel, Kestner was intoxicated during the altercation.

Julie Anderson, editor in chief of the Sentinel, told Newsweek that ahead of the rally the newsroom spoke with the reporters and photographers covering the event, “telling them to be careful and vigilant about their own personal safety.”

Anderson told the Tracker that her staff has faced intimidation, threats and name-calling at Trump rallies since 2016.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected].