Judge reverses himself, dismisses restraining orders against sports journalist’s tweets

A former dormitory for Tucson Tech players in the 1100 block of West Miracle Mile. /Ron Medvescek / Arizona Daily Star 2016

By Emily Bregel | Arizona Daily Star

Despite courtroom allegations of “fake news” and defamation, a judge has dismissed a restraining order against a sports journalist who was accused of harassment based on a series of tweets about the founder of a defunct Tucson athletic program.

Justice of the Peace Keith Bee ruled Friday that plaintiff Jeff Pichotta, a former director of the Tucson Tech prep school, did not meet the burden of proof to show sports journalist Ralph Amsden was harassing him on Twitter.

Amsden had been tweeting reminders to his followers about the failures of Pichotta’s athletic program, and the financial and emotional damage alleged by some of its participating athletes and their parents.

Outside the Pima County Consolidated Justice Court courtroom, Amsden said he should be relieved by the outcome. But he said he’s “spooked” after weeks of anxiety over the two “no-contact” restraining orders that would have made it impossible to do his job, for fear of encountering Pichotta on a sports sideline while reporting.

And since the restraining order was initially granted based solely on his Twitter posts, Amsden was fearful even re-tweeting his own stories, or reporting further on the Pichottas’ activities, could have gotten him in trouble.


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April 2018