Judge Rejects 'Rioting' Charge Against Journalist For Reporting On Protestors, But Prosecutor Still Looking For New Charges

from the good-to-see dept

Last week it was announced that journalist Amy Goodman would go to North Dakota to face charges over her coverage of North Dakota oil pipeline protests that went viral. The idea that Goodman was charged with doing journalism was really ridiculous. The original charges focused on “trespassing” but once the local state’s attorney, Ladd Erickson, realized that those clearly would not stick, he changed them to rioting. When asked to defend the arrest warrant and charges by a local newspaper, Erickson displayed a complete lack of understanding of the First Amendment in saying that because Goodman’s coverage was sympathetic to the protesters, it was fine to consider her a protester too.

Thankfully, a judge disagreed and rejected the rioting charge.

District Judge John Grinsteiner did not find probable cause to justify the charges filed on Friday October 14 by State?s Attorney Ladd R. Erickson. Those charges were presented after Erickson had withdrawn an earlier charge against Goodman of criminal trespass.

Bizarrely, it appears Erickson is planning to hit the law books to see if there’s anything else he can find to charge Goodman:

She and her lawyers declared victory on Monday, but Ladd Erickson, a state prosecutor who is assisting the Morton County state?s attorney?s office in the case, said other charges were possible.

?I believe they want to keep the investigation open and see if there is any evidence in the unedited and unpublished videos that we could better detail in an affidavit for the judge,? he said via email. ?The Democracy Now video that many people have seen doesn?t have much evidence value in it.?

That alone just seems like more intimidation — planning to look at “unedited and unpublished videos” to try to find something to charge Goodman over. This is just blatant intimidation of the press, basically trying to get info on sources.

Of course, if the goal was to intimidate Goodman away from reporting on the protests, it appears to have failed. Goodman has pledged to continue to cover the story. The question remaining, though, is if Erickson gets any reprimand for clearly violating the constitutional rights of journalists? It remains deeply problematic that the charges and arrest warrant were ever issued in the first place.

Meanwhile, a documentary filmmaker, Deia Schlosberg, who was also in North Dakota filming protesters was also arrested and has been charged with a series of felony charges including “theft of property, conspiracy to theft of services and conspiracy to tampering with or damaging a public service.” So, apparently Goodman isn’t the only one targeted for doing First Amendment protected work in covering the stories of protesters.

Filed Under: , , , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Judge Rejects 'Rioting' Charge Against Journalist For Reporting On Protestors, But Prosecutor Still Looking For New Charges”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
57 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: There's a rule for that:

He is about to find himself on the wrong side of a malicious prosecution lawsuit and the moron doesn’t even realize that he is completely in the wrong here. Every statement and email he sends is just more fuel for Goodman. If the police are the ones turning it into a riot, they should be the ones in jail.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Re: There's a rule for that:

and the moron doesn’t even realize that he is completely in the wrong here

You assume he doesn’t know he is wrong. He may know and simply not care. Even if he is sued for “malicious prosecution”, it is his office that is sued (he’s protected personally) and, at worst, tax payers have to pay a bill if he loses.

Stephen says:

Re: Re: Re: There's a rule for that:

it is his office that is sued (he’s protected personally)…So if he goes out and harasses someone in his personal capacity he would be liable but if he puts on his attorney’s shoes and does the same thing in an official capacity he isn’t?

Sounds like a good way to avoid personal responsibility and allow petty tyrants to reign freely.

No one should be above the law–including attorneys and other government lawyers. Otherwise more will cross the line which separates PROsecution from PERsecution with impunity

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Napoleonic Code

It’s part of the Napoleonic Code: The emperor is subject to the same laws that is the lowest civilian.

Sadly, as with our practice of prosecutorial discretion we don’t believe in that here in the states.

Also corporations are treated very differently, despite being regarding as people, instead they’re fined and insufficiently so, for wrongdoing. So a company has very little reason to change its policies if the legal costs are less than the benefits of the policy.

Ergo, Exxon-Valdez, Deepwater Horizon…and possibly Trump, if he’s found some clever way to prevent DAs from prosecuting him directly, instead prosecuting Trump, Inc.

DannyB (profile) says:

Ladd Erickson, don't limit yourself, think outside the box

Dear Ladd Erickson,

I understand you are looking for evidence in unedited and unpublished videos in order to charge Amy Goodman for her brazen and willful acts of journalism.

Why are you limiting yourself to unedited videos? Why not edited videos as well?

What about videos with special effects added? Digitally enhanced?

Thank you for your ongoing efforts to protect us all from news and information that we should not be aware of. Government censorship and abuse of power to intimidate journalists is a time honored practice in history. The first amendment should never stand in the way of your passion and zeal.

Sincerely,

Ninja (profile) says:

Bizarrely, it appears Erickson is planning to hit the law books to see if there’s anything else he can find to charge Goodman

Bizarrely? Really? Aren’t we seeing this happening systematically for years now to consider it bizarre or abnormal? Throwing the book to see if anything sticks and threaten maximum jail time is the norm. Remember Aaron? He was just one drop in the ocean that was noticed because unfortunately he ended his life.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

If only the Secretary of State was held to such a high standard. They didn’t even have to dig through the law books for her, the laws she broke were quite obvious and spelled out by the Director of the FBI. A nation where the political class gets away with murder while the sheeple are prosecuted to the fullest for the most minor offense won’t last long.

TruthHurts (profile) says:

Erickson to attempt learning through osmosis???

Unless Erickson plans to use osmosis to search for anything relevent, I doubt he’ll find anything.

I say this because Erickson has to know that the North Dakota statutes do not come in audio-book format.

It seems apparent to me that he has to be illiterate, or else he would have already known that the bill of rights trumps any local laws.

Rekrul says:

The irony is that all the protesting and the reporting on the protesting is a huge waste of time. Not that I’m not sympathetic to their cause, but let’s be real; It’s an oil pipeline and no amount of protesting is going to stop it. Nor will the protests change anything for the future. It’s not like the protests or public outcry will make the government think twice the next time they want to grant an oil company permission to desecrate sacred native American land for profit.

DebbyS (profile) says:

Re: the irony is...

Rekrul, I just got done early voting here in Albuquerque. I should have read the long ballot before hand! However, the process was quick, but people are waiting until election day maybe. On the ballot was a question that went like, should citizens of the city have the right to vote on whether or not [a big transit project destroying travel on a major city avenue] should be allowed? So it was as though we might get to have a say… on something the mayor started work on yesterday. Actually he is doing no work himself, no shovel in his hand, and I’m sure he never takes any bus anywhere in the city. It doesn’t matter that I don’t think the US Govt has actually given the city the funding yet, though the mayor’s contractor buddies may not get their cut, so local taxpayers will probably have to make up for it. At least, should the mayor decide to run for some other office, it is highly unlikely he will succeed as people will remember his giant ego and the even bigger traffic jams, all for a "service" no one wants or needs. No amount of citizen protests of the whole idea were listened to by "leaders/city fathers" who think they have a brilliant idea and everyone will (or better) learn to love it. This happens everywhere, all around the world, so you are right to point out the irony that protesting is useless if TPTB think they are right.

Aaron Walkhouse (profile) says:

Let's not forget what Deia Schlosberg was charged for.

She rode along with the activists which broke into pipeline
compounds
and started spinning valves. ‌ This could have
resulted in one or more major pipeline breaks and spills.

Put as simply as possible, she was acting as publicist and
videographer for an actual crime in progress. It doesn’t
matter that she claimed to be “doing journalism” because her
active participation in that crime [by riding along and not
notifying police of the crime in progress] makes her a
direct participant in the crimes she filmed
.

She has no defense because she joined that group as a
willing criminal and failed to act otherwise at any point.

Amy, on the other hand [and even though she was obviously
on the side of the protesters], did no such thing and
simply acted as a legitimate journalist at all times. ‌

The prosecutor’s actions beyond this point are more likely to
get him in trouble with the courts than do harm to Amy.

Aaron Walkhouse (profile) says:

Re: Re: Not quite. There's a critical difference which the court will address.

Embedded journalists are there professionally, and not as
co-conspirators. ‌ Take, for example, the journalists who
rode along with the Marines when they were fighting in
Fallujah. ‌ One of those marines found a wounded insurgent
trying to play dead and executed him. ‌ Only the presence
of that journalist and his camera caused the crime to be
uncovered and the footage secured a conviction.

Certainly, some embedded journalists are unabashed cheerleaders
but even those ones tend to do their job first as professionals;
never really becoming combatants themselves. ‌

Deia Schlosberg chose to be a participant in the crime, for
which her camera was the instrument of her activism.

Nick (profile) says:

This annoys me. Every time someone does something someone in government doesn’t like, they arrest them and THEN go looking for a charge to place. They invariably say that they KNOW they broke a law, but they just don’t know what one.

I am of the opinion that unless you KNOW they broke a law, you shouldn’t be able to do anything to someone. And if the charge is false (such as rioting, for covering a protest) then let that play out in court or the charge dropped.

It’s an abuse of law if you go hunting for 100+ year old laws that haven’t been enforced or even LOOKED AT for decades just to punish someone you don’t like.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Picking Sides

What concerns me is not that a journalist might be sympathetic with one side or the other:

"because Goodman’s coverage was sympathetic to the protesters, it was fine to consider her a protester too. "

…but rather that our government and law enforcement, in the form of Ladd Erickson and the police, would take one side or the other.

Her job is to report the situation to the public, which she is clearly doing, whether biased or not. Law enforcement’s job should be to keep the peace as the protesters demonstrate, and make sure innocent citizens and journalists remains safe, even if the protesters or pipeline security detail break laws.

John Mayor says:

CROSSING THE LINE

It appears that a charge of CRIMINAL HARASSMENT is in order!… and, a RESTRAINING ORDER! And it would be important to establish whether there was any "UNDUE INFLUENCE’ exerted against Erickson by OIL INTERESTS, in order to remove any criticism of the pipeline! Maybe the ACLU can investigate!
..
Please!… no emails!

John Mayor says:

CROSSING THE LINE 5

It appears that a charge of CRIMINAL HARASSMENT is in order!… and, a RESTRAINING ORDER! And it would be important to establish whether there was any "UNDUE INFLUENCE’ exerted against Erickson by OIL INTERESTS, in order to remove any criticism of the pipeline! Maybe the ACLU can investigate!

Please!… no emails!

John Mayor says:

Re: Re: CROSSING THE LINE 5

Please refrain from presuming what “spamming” is!… and please refrain from presuming why these repeats are actually here! Mike has been made aware… BY ME!… of why these repeats have appeared! And Mike has every authority to remove the repeats if he chooses! My test!… my experiment!… is finished! And so… all is well with your “world aesthetic”! And so… frankly!… it’s none of your concern!
_____

Please!… no emails!

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Loading...