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Prisoner Held Court TV Producer Hostage

Courtroom Television Network hopes it can still proceed with a documentary on a convicted murderer who held one of its producers hostage during a prison interview last week, according to officials.

Kenneth Kimes, who is serving a 125-year sentence for killing a millionaire Manhattan socialite, used a pen as a weapon to hold freelance producer Maria Zone captive for four and half hours at the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, N.Y.

It remains to be seen if Court TV will go ahead with an episode of its
Crime Stories

series on Kimes and his mother, Sante. Both were convicted in the murder of Irene Silverman.

"We need to look at the tape and see what we've got," said Doc Jarden, Court TV's vice president of documentaries and specials. "And we need to see what other interviews we can get. Our hope is we do go forward."

Zone, who had worked on several projects for Court TV, was at the prison with a camera crew to tape a segment on Kimes. The crew recorded a 30-minute chat with the prisoner in an interview room, with a guard present.

But at one point after a break, Kimes pulled out a pen and held it to the producer's neck, holding her captive.

"What happened was unprecedented," Jarden said.

The scuffle itself is not on tape, Jarden said. Kimes has since been moved to a secure section of the prison.

Kimes was trying to prevent his mother from being extradited to California, to face other murder charges. After more than four hours, negotiators distracted Kimes, and authorities wrestled him away from Zone.

Zone said her experience hasn't soured her on her line of work, or on talking to inmates.

"It was an isolated incident," she said. "I never expect it to happen again. I actually feel safe going into a prison."

Zone, who had done a preliminary interview with Kimes two weeks before at Clinton, said that although he was whispering that he wouldn't hurt her, "I thought he could snap at any moment."

She's planning to proceed with the Kimes story for Court TV, and thinks her hostage experience with Kimes "will make it a more compelling story."

When conducting jailhouse interviews, Court TV abides by the particular rules of the state department of corrections involved.

Some states exercise a total ban on prison interviews by the media; others permit interviews when there is a Plexiglas barrier between the two parties. Some venues only allow a reporter in a room with a handcuffed and shackled inmate.

In New York, however, the media can interview an unrestrained inmate in the same room, provided there is a guard present, according to Jarden.