You have to understand that I was utterly intent on running a column covering the start of the Daniel Rak murder trail. But that effort was preempted by Daily Herald reporter Harry Hitzeman’s insistence upon demanding my complete and undivided attention.
The irony being that a reporter who calls all sorts of folks out for all sorts of reasons was so thin skinned, he came damn close to assaulting me in a Kane County Judicial Center elevator. Why, I even had to ask court security to intervene.
Before any of you bleeps say, “There’s gotta be another side to this story,” it was all captured on videotape. So lying would do me no damned good. I’ll run the Rak story tomorrow., but since I suddenly seem to be famous, we’ll go with my statement to the Kane County Sheriff’s Office for now.
Kane County Sheriff’s Witness Statement Report
On July 17, 2017 at approximately 2:45 P.M., the following series of events took place at the Kane County Judicial Center at 37W777 IL-38, St Charles:
1 I, Jeff Ward, of Geneva, Illinois, in my capacity as a journalist, was attending the voir dire process at the Daniel Rak trial in courtroom 311. About 2:40, Daily Herald reporter Harry Hitzeman showed up and, when directed to sit next to me in the only available seat in the last row, Harry asked everyone else to move down. I was fine with that decision.
2. Five minutes later, Judge Tegeler declared a recess and asked court security and his bailiffs to clear the courtroom. Since I was at the far east side of the last bench, I was the last one out of the courtroom. When I exited 311, Hitzeman was leaning against the opposite doorway watching everyone as they walked out. He was intent on a confrontation. We did catch each other’s eye, but I simply walked by to the third floor elevator.
3. As the southern elevator door opened, I heard running or very quick walking directly behind me. As I turned around, I noted Hitzeman jumped into the elevator. I wouldn’t say he charged me, but he was intent on making his presence known. We were the only two people in the elevator the entire way down.
4. I simply leaned against the back wall and looked up ignoring Hitzeman. As the doors closed Hitzeman asked, “What’s your problem – what’s your fucking problem with me.” He was agitated, red-faced and shaking, but I wasn’t about to back down or it would be open season on Jeff Ward. So I simply said:
- You’re a piece of shit
- You can’t get a story right
- You don’t hold yourself to the same standard you hold the people you write about
So then he goes off even more and starts mildly advancing toward me. At this point, I’m ready to defend myself, because I’m clearly alarmed and disturbed that a professional reporter would confront me in public in this manner. That shouldn’t happen on any planet and, since he’s gone this far, I’m wondering where the situation might be headed. Could I have completely shut up? Sure! I wasn’t agitated at all, but again, if Hitzeman could claim he backed me down, it would be open season on Jeff Ward.
5. The elevator reached the ground floor and I quickly moved towards court security asking the officers if they’d intervene in the situation. Hitzeman comes around the corner shouting, “Well there’s one story I got right. It’s the one about you using County money and getting fired from Jack Cunningham’s office.” Hitzeman is slowly advancing towards me, getting redder and shaking even more which is clearly making court security nervous, so they start moving towards him.
6. At that point I turned around a move toward him saying, “Harry you can’t even get that one right – I resigned from the County Clerk’s office.” Then Harry gets even louder yelling “you were fired” over and over again while Court Security intervenes and asks us both where we’re going. I said something to the effect of, “I’m leaving, but I don’t need him following me.” Heitzman said he was going back up to courtroom 311. So he specifically followed me downstairs to confront me about some perceived slight.
As you might imagine, I found this entire interaction alarming and disturbing – especially on the part of what’s supposed to be a professional reporter – and unless I make Hitzeman an example by filing disorderly conduct charges against him, this will be only the beginning. It’s one thing if readers confront me, because that’s to be expected. But I cannot do my job if other reporters start calling me out.
Thus, I think it’s critical to press disorderly conduct charges against Harry Hitzeman.