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Scalia: 'I have learned my lesson'

JACKSON, Miss. -- Antonin Scalia, in a letter to an Associated Press reporter received yesterday, said he learned his lesson over an incident in which a federal marshal forced journalists to erase their recordings of a speech the Supreme Court justice gave to high school students.

Scalia also vowed he would make it clear in the future that recording his remarks for use by the print media would be permitted.

"I have learned my lesson (at your expense), and shall certainly be more careful in the future," Scalia wrote in the letter, which was dated Friday.

The AP reporter, Denise Grones, said yesterday that she was "happy Justice Scalia understands the value of a reporter doing his or her job. Print reporters usually depend heavily on their recorders to ensure accurate quotes, and that's what I was doing that day."

During the April 7 speech in Hattiesburg, a deputy federal marshal demanded that Grones and Antoinette Konz, a reporter for The Hattiesburg American, erase recordings of the justice's remarks.

When Grones resisted, the marshal, Melanie Rube, took the digital recorder out of her hands. Grones then showed Rube how to erase the recording.

Rube then demanded that Konz hand over her tape. Konz surrendered the tape and, after the speech, was able to get it back only after she erased the recording in front of the marshal.

The exchange occurred in the front row of the auditorium while Scalia delivered his speech about the Constitution.

"As I understand it from press reports, a United States Marshal erased, or caused you to erase, the tape recorder that you were using for the purpose of assuring the accuracy of your press report," Scalia wrote in the apology to both reporters. "I imagine that is an upsetting and indeed enraging experience and I want you to know how it happened."

Scalia explained that in a speech earlier that day, he had asked that his appearance not be recorded. Scalia normally bars television cameras from his appearances, but his policy on the use of small audio recorders has not been clear-cut.

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