Heidi Hemmat was a KDVR reporter for 15 years. Now she says a threatening subject and the station’s failure to protect her have driven her from her longtime job — and she wonders whether the old TV reporting model of ambush interviews is still safe. Her former employer denies the allegations.
This all started with a segment in which she confronted a man over allegations that he had destroyed documents that he had been ordered to give to the state Attorney General, Hemmat posted on her website. Her series on the man had resulted in “consumer fraud charges” and a criminal case, she wrote.
“I worked very hard to expose this guy — and in the end, I paid a very high price,” she wrote. “There’s a reason why I’m not saying his name — it’s because I’m still scared of him.”
Soon after the charges were filed last year, according to Hemmat, the man’s psychiatrist called on the 4th of July weekend to say that he was “‘homicidal’ and was planning to kill me.”
The psychiatrist informed Hemmat that the man was going to be released from a mental-health facility and that he knew where her family lived, according to Hemmat, who is a mother of two.
“I remember the chill than ran from the top of my head to the soles of my feet,” she wrote. She filed reports with police stations and got a restraining order, she reports, but her “sense of safety was gone — and the way I viewed my job forever changed.”
Her employer paid for a few days of security at her home, but by the end of the week “expressed concern about how much it was costing and downplayed the threat,” according to Hemmat.
She was wracked by fear over the next six months, with one of the worst days coming when the man reportedly broke out of his ankle tracker, she wrote. By then she had bought a gun for the first time in her life.
“My boss, once again feigned empathy and concern … but I know now she always thought I was over-reacting,” she wrote. And her supervisor continually asked her to cover the man’s court appearances, she wrote.
When Hemmat tried to protest, her boss said the man had only thrown a “temper tantrum,” according to Hemmat.
Hemmat kept working for six months more, but she found herself unable to do much of what TV reporters do. She didn’t think it was safe anymore to keep chasing down people accused of wrong-doing.
“All the bosses were happy, but I knew I couldn’t keep ambushing people who did bad things to other people. Society has changed. People have changed. My physical and mental health were unraveling,” she said.
Soon after, she took an unpaid leave, and in August asked to be released from her contract.
“My boss sent out a note to the staff that failed to acknowledge my 15 years of service at KDVR, the 6 Emmy awards I had won for the station or the fact that I had literally put my life on the line. It just said ‘Heidi is no longer an employee of FOX 31,'” she wrote.
Denverite called Benjamin Hartford, the attorney for the man accused of threatening Hemmat. Hartford said this:
“He was taken off pre-trial supervision. There is no credible threat that is deemed as a result of what had happened in the case. At the end of the day, he is in compliance with all court orders. He hasn’t had any contact with that reporter in over a year.”
The store owner pleaded guilty to a felony fraud charge, but was not charged with harassment or any other crime related to his interactions with Hemmat, according to court records.
In an interview with The Denver Post, Hemmat also accused KDVR of refusing to air certain investigative stories when the “subjects were advertisers with KDVR.” She has moved on to her own company, Heidi Hemmat Productions.
Joan Barrett, the general manager of KDVR, told FoxNews.com that Hemmat’s accusation that the station had fallen short on protecting her were “unequivocally false.”
“We took Heidi’s concerns very seriously and provided her with support, security and an attorney, for which Heidi expressed her appreciation,” Barrett told Fox.
” … To be clear, we never denied a request for additional security … We are disappointed Heidi has chosen to view the circumstances differently and disparage the station. We wish her nothing but the best during what appears to be a continued difficult time.”