Feb. 14, 2020

Best of the States

Records reveal Virginia attorney-lawmaker privilege that delays court proceedings

Sometimes accountability stories are hiding in plain sight, but getting to them requires first recognizing the potential and then doing a whole lot of digging. Virginia reporter Sarah Rankin did both of those things. 

After seeing a one-sentence mention in a legal trade publication, Rankin began the hunt for a deeper story about a continuance privilege granted to lawyer-legislators, and how one Virginia lawmaker used the privilege to consistently delay court hearings. 

Rankin plowed through records of cases that involved Virginia lawmaker Jeff Campbell, the defense attorney for a one-time NASCAR race driver accused of domestic violence. She found that Campbell had employed the continuance privilege at least 30 times over three years, more than double any other lawyer-legislator.

For seizing on the brief mention, then following up with determined reporting that revealed a potential for abuse by lawyer-lawmakers in Virginia and elsewhere, Rankin wins the week’s Best of the States award.

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Aug. 06, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP exclusive as fired anti-corruption prosecutor flees Guatemala

had spent years cultivating a rapport with Juan Francisco Sandoval, Guatemala’s special prosecutor against corruption, who had won praise from U.S. officials for work that rattled Guatemala’s most powerful citizens, including President Alejandro Giammattei.Her efforts paid off when Sandoval was abruptly fired, a move that would lead the U.S. to temporarily suspend cooperation with the office of Guatemala’s attorney general. After attending the post-firing news conference, Pérez was ushered into the office of the country’s human rights ombudsman and invited to be the sole journalist to accompany Sandoval in his small convoy of armored SUVs as he fled the country. Across the border in El Salvador, Pérez reported on his comments and took photos and video, agreeing for safety reasons to publish only once he had safely boarded a flight to the United States hours later.Pérez’s story moved early the next morning and was used by major national and international outlets; a competitive agency didn't report Sandoval's exit until later that day and did so citing the human rights ombudsman.https://aplink.news/z1ehttps://aplink.video/mt3

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Dec. 11, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP reveals how major terrorism prosecution almost fell apart

delivered an exclusive, deeply reported account of how the Department of Justice’s biggest terrorism prosecution in years almost didn't happen. The case involves two alleged Islamic State militants dubbed “The Beatles,” British citizens blamed for the jailing, torture and murder of Western hostages in Syria.Tucker spoke to roughly a dozen current and former U.S. and British officials — many of whom rarely, if ever, grant interviews — as well as relatives of slain hostages. The story broke news in several areas, revealing for the first time how grieving families reached a gradual consensus to take the death penalty off the table, a major sticking point. Tucker also reported the behind-the-scenes involvement of current and former FBI officials who encouraged the families to prod the administration into action, and never-before-seen email correspondence from a senior Justice Department official to one of the victims’ relatives.https://bit.ly/3m1IcCOhttps://bit.ly/37Std99

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Sept. 04, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Profile examines Sharpton’s presence in a new era of activism

delivered an exclusive multiformat profile about how the man who helped popularize the 1980s cry, “No justice, no peace,” has put himself at the center of a new wave of activism, in a new millennium. The package captured the complex qualities that make up Sharpton, who is revered by activists he has helped groom and families of countless victims of police and vigilante violence, but who has fierce critics, too. The profile, examining both his triumphs and his missteps, helped set up AP’s coverage of the March on Washington later in the week.https://bit.ly/34YcAsQhttps://bit.ly/3hTWioi

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Sept. 04, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Resourceful work breaks news on deadly Portland protest

teamed up to break news on the violent Portland, Oregon, protests that ended with the death of a man affiliated with Patriot Prayer, a Northwest right-wing organization. In the confusion after the fatal shooting it wasn't immediately clear what had happened or who the dead person was. Through sourcing and determined reporting, Flaccus was able to confirm key details and provide context on the ongoing violence. Using Bronstein’s photos and eyewitness account, Flaccus confirmed the victim was wearing a Patriot Prayer hat, then used her sourcing within that organization to be first to accurately report the victim’s name, while other media initially misidentified him.https://bit.ly/2Z1pfYdhttps://bit.ly/34YKi1a

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July 17, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

All-formats team leads coverage of violent Belgrade protests

delivered dominant coverage as Serbia witnessed its most aggressive anti-government protests in years, triggered by new lockdown restrictions in response to a spike in coronavirus cases. Through three days and nights of protests and rioting, AP outdistanced its nearest competition in all formats and at virtually every turn. Visual coverage particularly stood out, with photos and video getting strong play. On both Wednesday and Friday of the protests AP was not only first with video edits, it had hours of compelling live coverage; the opposition had none.https://bit.ly/394GrzUhttps://bit.ly/2ZvllYchttps://bit.ly/2ZytQlchttps://bit.ly/2OJeZ1jhttps://bit.ly/3935Eue

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July 02, 2020

Best of the States

AP scoops everyone on dramatic ouster of federal prosecutor

After a heads-up tip to Justice Department reporter Michael Balsamo, what unfolded on that Friday night was strange: The top Manhattan federal prosecutor – the one investigating President Donald Trump’s allies – was said to be resigning his job. 

The AP was out with the story for at least a half hour before the competition. But that was just the beginning, as U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman reported for work the next day, only to step down amid conflicting statements from the White House and Justice Department. Balsamo and Neumeister were out front again, making sense of the shifting story with well-sourced detail and context.

For work that put the AP way ahead with both the breaking news and the meaning of the maneuvering, Balsamo and Neumeister share this week’s Best of the States honors.

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June 05, 2020

Best of the Week — First Winner

Coverage of Floyd protests, Brazil’s virus toll, commands global attention

The end of May saw unprecedented news: The coronavirus pandemic continued to spread infection and wreak economic havoc around the globe, while much of the world’s attention pivoted suddenly to protests across the U.S. that spread to Paris, London, Australia and elsewhere after the suffocation death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25.

This week’s Best of the Week recognizes AP’s work surrounding each of those mega-stories, with top honors going to Baltimore-based photographer Julio Cortez for his iconic photo of a protester holding an American flag aloft, and to the AP all-formats team in Brazil for continuing coverage of the virus in a nation being ravaged by COVID-19.

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Oct. 04, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP scoop: California prisons ending program to make peace among gangs

for reporting exclusively that the California prison system was ending a controversial program in which it had attempted to get inmates who were members of rival gangs to meet and mingle in outdoor recreation areas. Thompson documented a series of fights, brawls and riots in the prison system, and officials decided to suspend the program, acknowledging that it had not worked as intended. https://bit.ly/2AFGQrX

July 05, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

New Jersey fails to identify polluters; governor promises fix

for accountability journalism made possible through an open records request, reporting that New Jersey environmental regulators had failed for nearly a decade to put out a legally required annual report on water pollution that identifies the state’s worst polluters and how the state is holding them responsible. His exclusive story drew a pledge by the governor that the publication of the reports would resume, and kudos from the state’s major news outlets. https://bit.ly/2LysvUS

June 14, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

3 years after Prince’s death, first interview with his former protégé

for the first interview since Prince’s death with Apollonia Kotero, the Purple One’s former protégé and close friend. Kotero opened up about falling into depression after Prince’s death, and the superstar’s unfulfilled plans to re-launch her career – 30-plus years after she appeared in his “Purple Rain” film and became the lead singer of the group he formed, Apollonia 6. https://bit.ly/2ZkU7Aw

May 24, 2019

Best of the States

APNewsBreak: Military prosecutors sent tracking software to defense team, reporter

Los Angeles courts reporter Brian Melley was enjoying a Sunday afternoon when a longtime legal source reached out with a remarkable tip in the case of Edward Gallagher, a Navy SEAL facing a court martial on charges he murdered a teenage Islamic State fighter in Iraq in 2017.

The source told Melley that military prosecutors, frustrated by leaks in the case, planted tracking software in emails sent to defense lawyers and a reporter. The unsophisticated software was quickly discovered by the recipients.

Melley worked up the story, including an interview with a military law expert who thought the tactic was ethically, legally and intellectually dubious. His story hit the wire the next morning, quickly gaining traction online. AP was widely credited everywhere it appeared and no major media outlet matched it.

For giving AP an exclusive on an important military justice story, Melley wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Nov. 30, 2018

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Standout video from violent protests on Champs Élysées

for coverage of the protests against fuel taxes and overall discontent with President Macron’s policies featured a day of dramatic live coverage of the demonstrations as they spiraled into violence along the Champs Élysées. Speed in editing these dramatic images was important, but AP stood out for its hours of continued live coverage from roaming teams, and two top shots, much closer to the action than our competitors. Other formats, notably photos, performed admirably, but the work of APTN video journalists Alex Turnbull, Paris, and Berlin-based Mstyslav Chernov deserves special mention. https://bit.ly/2DTyTlNhttps://bit.ly/2P80sdfhttps://bit.ly/2DTsMhe