Updated 4:25 PM
It was a raucous affair at the arraignment for Valdessa Johnson Thursday afternoon. While members of the media and onlookers were awaiting the finish of the proceedings, an apparent supporter of the victim, Yeisha Howard, attacked News 10 Now reporter Joleene Des Rosiers while she was operating a television camera and shooting video of the hearing.
Action News reporter Jim Kenyon and photojournalist Andy Wolf witnessed the attack. Kenyon reports that the assailant was taken into custody by court security and everyone else in court was escorted from the building. According to court security the alleged assailant is a minor and his name has not been released. The case has been turned over to the Syracuse Police Department.
Ms. Des Rosiers was injured in the attack and was taken to a local hospital for treatment. The camera she was operating was damaged. Joleene is a former employee of Action News, having worked here previous to her stint at News 10 Now.
Mr. Kenyon attempted to get an interview with members of Johnson TMs family, but they declined to comment. Johnson TMs attorney told us that he plans to say that Johnson TMs attack on Howard was in self defense. Johnson and Howard had been involved in at least two other altercations prior to Howard TMs stabbing death on Tuesday.
Johnson entered a mandatory plea of not guilty to second degree murder and is being held without bail at the Onondaga County Justice Center.
The Syracuse Police Department held a new conference Thursday morning to discuss details of the city TMs most recent homicide. 25-year-old Valdessa Johnson was arrested Wednesday and charged with second degree murder, second degree assault, and aggravated criminal contempt. Johnson is accused of stabbing 18-year-old Yeisha Howard Tuesday afternoon. Howard later died at University Hospital.
At the news conference, police told the story of what led up to Howard TMs death. Officials said that Johnson and Howard had an ongoing dispute dating back several years, which came to a head when the two got into a fight in the lobby of an apartment building at 1815 East Fayette Street. Several other people from both sides of the argument got involved, leading to Johnson allegedly stabbing Howard in the neck.
Police say that there were a total of seven individuals involved in the altercation. A second stabbing victim, 21-year-old Olivia Melton, received a minor would to her left thigh. Police described the entire crime scene as very bloody.
It is believed that there was romantic involvement between some of the girls involved in the fight which led to tension over the past few years. Police mentioned two previous incidents between the victim and the suspect. The first was at the galleries on South Salina Street on January 22, 2008. Howard and her mother Jocelyn Knight alleged that Johnson threatened them. Johnson was arrested on a menacing charge and an order of protection was put in place.
The second incident was at another address on South Salina Street six days later. This time Howard was arrested for pulling a knife on Johnson. Howard was arrested on March 8 and charged with menacing, criminal possession of a weapon, and disorderly conduct. Those charges were dropped by a Grand Jury.
Johnson was originally scheduled to be arraigned in Syracuse City Court this morning, but the hearing was postponed until this afternoon.