Journalists Arrested In Ferguson Promise Not To Promote The Settlement

from the interesting-agreement dept

Back in 2014, as the protests in Ferguson, Missouri were the main story everyone was following, we noted a troubling pattern of police in the area arresting journalists on no basis whatsoever. This happened even after a court told them to knock if off. And yet, the fallout from this is still happening. For reasons that still don’t make any sense at all, prosecutors have charged two journalists — Ryan Reilly and Wesley Lowery — with trespassing, after they failed to leave a McDonald’s fast enough (they were leaving, just apparently not fast enough).

Back in March, St. Louis County “accidentally” issued arrest warrants for the two of them:

They eventually were told the warrants were issued in error, but it still shows how ridiculous this situation became. Finally, on Thursday, officials announced that they were dropping the charges against Reilly and Lowery, in exchange for a promise that the two will not sue the county.

Meanwhile, some other journalists who had been detained had already filed a lawsuit over the unlawful detention and, on Wednesdsay, it was announced that a settlement has been reached in which law enforcement officers will receive more training. While the official details of the settlement were “confidential,” the Huffington Post got a copy of the settlement using a FOIA request and found some interesting details, including an agreement that none of the four journalists in question will “publicize” the agreement in any way:

Under the deal, Ryan Devereaux, Lukas Hermsmeier, Ansgar Graw and Frank Herrmann cannot ?take any steps to publicize any of the terms? of the settlement. The agreement requires St. Louis County to pay $75,000 to resolve the federal civil rights lawsuit from the reporters, but like many settlements does not require the county to admit liability.

The agreement, a copy of which was obtained by The Huffington Post through a public records request, will also require all officers with the police department to undergo mandatory in-service training on media access and the right to record police activity.

Of course, it shouldn’t take a lawsuit for police to learn about the right of anyone (not just the press!) to record police activity. And, even though this information is getting out anyway, it seems pretty ridiculous that part of this settlement has this kind of gag order. These people are reporters. Their whole focus is on sharing and spreading information. It sounds like the St. Louis County Police Dept. must have really wanted to try to keep this settlement quiet… and now that’s backfiring too. Maybe it should just stop trying to arrest and muzzle the press.

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Comments on “Journalists Arrested In Ferguson Promise Not To Promote The Settlement”

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20 Comments
That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Perhaps the gag order was the easiest way to avoid the vindictive nature of the system. They ‘accidentally’ issued arrest warrants, they have the power to accidentally to lots of things to make the reporters miserable and as we have seen time and time again the system is loath to accept that cogs of that system are guilty of this type of petty behavior and punish it.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Handy coincidence

Another nice perk about keeping the terms of the settlement private is that it makes enforcing it basically impossible because no-one knows what that involves.

If the requirement on the side of the police is ‘extra training’ so that they can know for sure this time that they aren’t allowed to arrest anyone recording them, but no one outside of the police knows about the condition then there’s no-one to make sure that they actually follow it. They can just as easily ignore it completely, making the ‘settlement’ entirely one sided, with the reporters dropping any case they might have had, and the police giving up absolutely nothing in exchange.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I’d love to see a defendant that’s not the state or police try that.

Judge: So your client is willing to plead guilty then?

Defense lawyer: Under the condition that doing so does not constitute an admission of guilt on their part.

Judge: Wait, what? They’re willing to admit guilt, without actually admitting to being guilty?

Defense: Essentially, yes.

Judge: What logic could you possibly have to defend something like this?

Defense: Why we learned it from watching the state prosecutors and their various ‘settlement deals’ your honor.

Judge: …

Defense: And the police, can’t forget them.

Judge: … point made.

Anonymous Coward says:

You’d think reporters, of all people, wouldn’t make agreements about dropping charges or accepting monetary settlements. Why wouldn’t they jump at the chance to publicize corruption and/or incompetence in government? It seems like the sort of thing they should be hunting for in the first place.

Random observations:

Those holding political office and enforcing the law in St. Louis serve primarily as a reminder of why cousins shouldn’t marry. It’s common to find large quantities of empty glue tubes and aerosol cans in their offices, but only if you can get the Budweiser empties cleared out. On the up side, there’s no bigotry or racism, as long as you’re on the Cardinal’s 25-man roster. Feathered hair and Members Only jackets will never make a comeback, because they never left. We have the Arch. Despite that, we’re positive that a catenary curve is somewhere between a cutter and a hard slider. When an out-of-towner says ‘Is the Pope Catholic?’ the response is ‘Yes. How could you not know that?’

And now, an old Balko article:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/04/st-louis-jails-the-wrong-_n_4212663.html

Anonymous Coward says:

Jonathan Lowe, a reporter for KPHO in Phoenix, Arizona, was arrested by police while on assignment covering a story about a guy who BBQd the family dog. Unable to bring the dog back, he did what he thought was the next best thing to help family members overcome their grief, by applying a strong dose of aroma therapy.

While it’s legally permissible these days for people to “identify” as another gender for toilet purposes, it’s apparently still a crime to identify as a dog and do what dogs do.

It’s times like this when a reporter’s relationship with the police had better be a good one.

John Mitchell (profile) says:

Accidental crime

Notably, there is no effort at all to identify the specific “accident” by which the warrant was issued. It’s sort of like, “Your Honor, this was an accident! We were placing an online order for carryout and did not realize that the computer had switched from the “sushi menu” tab to the “subpoena” tab on our browser. Our sushi chefs happen to be named Ryan and Lowery, lol.”

The police should be grateful that they got off that easy. (They won’t be. Their employer is the one paying, not them.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Day 6: Watched the Ferguson Cops beat an unarmed barely conscious man in the next cell over because he was ‘in posession of illegal black skin/ and/or was learning those devil-cursed booksmarts’

Day 7: Watched the Ferguson Chief of Police file charges and accuse me of witchcraft for ‘storing words inside clouds’

etc

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