U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Woman hits New Jersey reporter covering court hearing

Incident Details

August 3, 2018

Taylor Tiamoyo Harris, a reporter for New Jersey newspaper chain NJ Advance Media, was covering courtroom proceedings on Aug. 3, 2018, when a woman struck her in the face.

Harris was covering the sentencing hearing for Tejay Johnson, a former Rutgers University football player who had been found guilty of committing a string of home invasion robberies in 2015. Harris had received permission from the judge to take pictures during the courtroom proceedings.

As Johnson was being taken away in handcuffs, Harris said she was sitting and facing forward when she was attacked from behind.

“[The attacker] pulled my hair and hit my face,” she told Freedom of the Press Foundation. “There was a red mark, which went away, but it was scary for me, because I didn’t see it happen and couldn’t defend myself.”

Harris said that immediately after she was attacked, officers surrounded her and took her to another room, where she filled out a statement about the assault. She said that her company, NJ Advance Media, walked her through what she should do.

According to the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office, a woman named Trudy Smith, faces a municipal charge of simple assault in connection with the attack on Harris.

Harris believes that she was assaulted because she took pictures during the court proceedings. 

“She attacked me because she saw me taking pictures, because I was a reporter, and this took me a while to process,” she said.

Days later, Harris tweeted about the incident.

Harris said that this is the first time that she’s been assaulted while reporting.

“I’ve been out on assignments, courtrooms, at murder scenes… Nothing like this has happened to me before,” she said. 

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