St. Louis County Still Considering Bringing Trespassing Charges Against Journalists Police Arrested In Ferguson

from the that-would-be-a-bad-idea dept

One of the side stories over the Ferguson protests from last summer was the fact that the over-aggressive militarized police went in and arrested journalists who were covering the events in Ferguson. Two of the first journalists arrested were Ryan Reilly of Huffington Post and Wesley Lowery of the Washington Post. At the time, we highlighted how they had tweeted the lead up to their own arrests:


A third reporter, Matt Pearce from the LA Times witnesses some of what happened and called the police chief -- and was told that it was all a mistake and that he had ordered the reporters released. After being released, Lowery and Reilly talked more about the ridiculousness of being arrested for, essentially, not getting out of the McDonalds fast enough:
Given all that, you might think the local police would let the matter drop (though, if I were Lowery or Reilly I'm not sure I would have let them just drop it...). But, no, apparently the St. Louis County police are now debating whether to bring trespassing charges against the two reporters:
St. Louis County prosecutors will soon decide whether to bring trespassing charges against two journalists arrested while covering demonstrations last summer in Ferguson, Missouri.

The Huffington Post’s Ryan Reilly and The Washington Post’s Wesley Lowery recently learned that there are open investigations related to their Aug. 13, 2014, arrests and that the cases have been referred to the county counselor's office, which primarily handles local ordinance violations. The St. Louis County Police Department filed incident reports in late April of this year describing the reporters as trespassing when they were seized at a McDonald's restaurant.
I'm trying to envision a scenario where this whole thing doesn't backfire in a ridiculous way for the St. Louis County police and prosecutors, and I'm struggling to find any possible way for them not to come out of this looking absolutely terrible. Both Lowery and Reilly are quick to point out how ridiculous the whole thing is:
"Ryan and I have maintained from day one that our detention was unwarranted, unnecessary and illegal," Lowery said in an email. "The idea that the prosecutor’s office would consider bringing formal charges in this incident is ludicrous. Officials in St. Louis County should drop this matter, release the relevant documents and allow us all to move on with our lives and onto more important elements of this story."

"Wesley and I did nothing wrong in this scenario, which occurred shortly after officers with the St. Louis County Police Department trained sniper rifles at a crowd of peaceful protesters in broad daylight," Reilly said in an email.
The article linked above notes that both reporters have continued their investigations into their own arrests, and have faced stonewalling at every turn, including police trying to deny their requests to find out the names of the officers who assaulted and arrested them. Moving forward with actual bogus "trespassing" charges would be not just adding insult to injury, but would, once again, call the world's gaze to St. Louis County and whatever the hell it is they call "justice" down there.

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • icon
    Former ST. Louis Resident (profile), 15 Jul 2015 @ 2:14pm

    Having formerly lived in St. Louis...

    ...I can say that you will never lose money betting on the utter stupidity of the St. Louis County politicians (which, of course, includes the County Prosecutors). One can also usually safely bet money safely that any random cop has a 50/50 chance of being someone who can't handle even the remotest hint that he might not be god incarnate without flying into an absolute rage.

    I fully expect the prosecutors and police to pursue this. I fully expect them to look like morons doing it. I fully expect the County to have to pay out taxpayer money to the reporters at the end of it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Uriel-238 (profile), 15 Jul 2015 @ 2:30pm

      Any chance that this might result in some police reform in Saint Louis County?

      I'm all for Reilly and Lowery getting rich off the county's dime, but I'd really also like to see some mass firings and policy reform as well.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Jul 2015 @ 2:26pm

    Just seems like St. Louis can't get enough bad publicity and apparently haven't had enough federal oversight yet. Were I the two reporters, I would be eyewitness testimony for national print runs on the circumstances. If you are going to have to deal with this sort of corruption, just as well set the turkeys up for the fall.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    TasMot (profile), 15 Jul 2015 @ 2:26pm

    The reporters need to keep quiet for a little while. They can't even get the names of the officers that "charged" them with the crimes (I mean assaulted them). If the county prosecutors are actually stupid to file court charges, at some point they are going to have to name the officers. At that point, the false arrest and illegal detention charges can be filed against those officers.

    Just let that hubris and prosecutorial stupidity run rampant just a little longer.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    TasMot (profile), 15 Jul 2015 @ 2:29pm

    One other angle, most McDonald's stores have security cameras now. They better get copies of those films so that timings can be done to determine what "fast enough" really means.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    tqk (profile), 15 Jul 2015 @ 3:08pm

    Now they're at war with journalists too?

    The article linked above notes that both reporters have continued their investigations into their own arrests, and have faced stonewalling at every turn, including police trying to deny their requests to find out the names of the officers who assaulted and arrested them.

    Well, there you go. A clear case of failing to "Respect mah authoritay!" Perhaps Laura Poitras and EFF would be interested in joining these cases of egregious assault on the Fourth Estate.

    This century just keeps on getting sillier.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Jul 2015 @ 12:00am

      Re: Now they're at war with journalists too?

      This century just keeps on getting sillier.

      Nothing silly, or even amusing about it, it is the word becoming increasingly authoritarian.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Uriel-238 (profile), 16 Jul 2015 @ 10:33pm

        I think it's that they got away with a lot of authoratarianism before.

        But the internet making all that visible to the public.

        To borrow a bit from the Magic-unicorn-key Encryption discussion:

        Public: This behavior is too authoritarian. Stop it.

        Agents: But we are accustomed behaving this way.

        Public: Get accustomed to something else.

        Agents: You're not the boss of me.

        Public: Uh, wait. We are.

        Agents: No. Not really.

        People who have power tend to like it and then go to all lengths to keep it, including getting bathed in widow's tears and puppy chum by the gentle hands of forsaken children.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Seegras (profile), 16 Jul 2015 @ 1:18am

      Re: Now they're at war with journalists too?

      Yes, I think this war against journalism has gone long enough. It's time to realize that journalism isn't going away.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DB (profile), 15 Jul 2015 @ 3:36pm

    Who is pressing charges for trespass?

    It's going to be a curious trespassing charge. It's a restaurant that was open to the public during posted hours, they were willingly served food, and there is no indication that there was a complaint by the property owner/tenant.

    Presumably they would be charged under Missouri Section 569.140.2, which doesn't clearly apply. Missouri Section 569.150.2, second degree trespass, is more general but changes the wording to simply "enters unlawfully", dropping "knowingly remains".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Jul 2015 @ 5:06pm

      Re: Who is pressing charges for trespass?

      "knowingly remains unlawfully"...

      As you say, there would have to be some determination that "remains unlawfully" was in effect. Since it wasn't posted (2 (2) ), the only excuse that could remain is "communicated to the actor", and they'd have to convince a judge that a law enforcement officer could have that authority.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 15 Jul 2015 @ 6:20pm

        Re: Re: Who is pressing charges for trespass?

        The prosecution could argue that the whole area was a "special law enforcement zone" and that fact was enough for the journalists to be in a "knowingly remains unlawfully" state of trespassing.

        I would love for them to try that as I didn't see anyone arresting and charging the McD's workers.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Jul 2015 @ 11:56pm

      Re: Who is pressing charges for trespass?

      Maybe the police will stupidly insist they commandeered the restaurant and everyone that stayed inside was trespassing.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Lurker Keith, 16 Jul 2015 @ 6:04am

        Re: Re: Who is pressing charges for trespass?

        Wouldn't that be dangerously close to, if not arguably a, violation of the rarely invoked Third Amendment?

        How many Amendments did they violate (or try to) when all Hell broke loose because the cops couldn't control themselves? The Bill of Rights is there ESPECIALLY for those situations.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          btr1701 (profile), 16 Jul 2015 @ 9:15am

          Re: Re: Re: Who is pressing charges for trespass?

          > Wouldn't that be dangerously close to, if not
          > arguably a, violation of the rarely invoked
          > Third Amendment?

          No, if anything it would be a 5th Amendment violation-- taking private property for a public purpose without just compensation.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jeff, 15 Jul 2015 @ 3:47pm

    Criminal trial, discovery

    Then again, should they actually charge them and go to trial, all the crappy stonewalling gets washed away by the court's authority to order discovery for the defense.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Jul 2015 @ 4:29pm

    and if they do go ahead it will be done to get 'eyes off the ball' of what the officers did, again!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Jul 2015 @ 6:39pm

    Saint Louis county will let this one rattle around until August 14th and then file it away. Simply for harassment. If they were to file an actual charge the reporters and their lawyers would have access to all the 'investigative' paperwork and especially to the names of all officers involved.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Jul 2015 @ 8:39pm

    I like how they slam his head into the pop fountain on the way out. A classic thug move.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Espryon (profile), 15 Jul 2015 @ 9:09pm

    Spellcheck .. maybe

    "St. Louis County Still Considering Bringing Trespassing Charges Agaisnt Journalists Police Arrested In Ferguson".

    Against is spelled wrong in your title lol, yw.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Jul 2015 @ 9:12pm

    Since it was at McDonalds wouldn't they have to file a trespassing complaint?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Espryon (profile), 15 Jul 2015 @ 9:21pm

      Re:

      They're the police. In the US they can do anything they want unless it receives huge amounts of media presence. The police unions hold to much sway in elections here. Nobody wants to touch the issue and the consequence of this is unjust and unlawful action by an agency that is supposed to regulate that. Free country my buttocks.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    David, 15 Jul 2015 @ 11:49pm

    Trespassing charges?

    So were they trespassing in a McDonalds where they bought food or trespassing in the police cars where they were detained?

    Either option sounds equally likely to make sense to a St. Louis County prosecutor. If I remember correctly, it was also here where a reporter on a tree or other elevated point was arrested because of not obeying an order to "disperse", a feat quite difficult to perform for a single person as a court subsequently found.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jul 2015 @ 6:11am

    When are the police going to be charged with inciting a riot?
    /s

    Never - of course.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Jessie (profile), 16 Jul 2015 @ 6:35am

    Discovery

    Wait. They don't want to give them the information, but if they charge them it all becomes discoverable and they would have to give it to them. Genius.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jul 2015 @ 7:48am

    Former St. Louis resident here too. Missouri is a god forsaken hellhole

    Stupid unions: My brother-in-law and sister were harassed by idiot bricklayer goons for help a friend brick his house.

    Stupid quid-pro-quid thought process: When the company I was working for was being taken over I offered to help do some extra work to ease things and the response was "what do you want in return". Nothing bitch, was just being friendly.

    Stupid people walking down the middle of the street all.the.time: Seriously. It is a thing. I got so tired of it.

    Stupid vehicle inspections: you know for s-a-f-e-t-y. right.

    Stupid City of St. Louis tax: yeah, they taxed your payroll check for having a job within the city limits.

    Stupid traffic snarls: If you were not on your way out of the city by 3:30 / 4:00 PM during the week. Game over. You get to waste an hour of your life looking at blinking red lights.

    Ladue: nuff said.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    nasch (profile), 16 Jul 2015 @ 8:42am

    Broad daylight

    "Wesley and I did nothing wrong in this scenario, which occurred shortly after officers with the St. Louis County Police Department trained sniper rifles at a crowd of peaceful protesters in broad daylight," Reilly said in an email.

    Would it have been better at night?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      JoeCool (profile), 16 Jul 2015 @ 10:47am

      Re: Broad daylight

      The phrase "doing {something} in broad daylight" implies that the something being done is so shameful that an intelligent person would do it under the cover of darkness rather than expose their shame to all and sundry. The police reaction in Ferguson certainly qualifies as shameful.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        nasch (profile), 16 Jul 2015 @ 11:06am

        Re: Re: Broad daylight

        Yeah and if they had done it at night he would have described it as "under cover of darkness". ;-) It's almost like police can't point rifles at citizens without getting lambasted for it!

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    btr1701 (profile), 16 Jul 2015 @ 9:20am

    Trespassing

    Since the McDonald's is not public property, it's legally absurd that the city could charge a customer with trespassing without the cooperation of the restaurant. Otherwise, all the reporters would have to do is call the manager to the stand and have him testify, "No, I didn't ask them to leave and they were not trespassing in my restaurant."

    Case dismissed.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      sigalrm (profile), 16 Jul 2015 @ 1:41pm

      Re: Trespassing

      "That's a nice McDonalds you got there. Be a shame if something were to happen to it. You know how long emergency service response times can be in this area...."

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        btr1701 (profile), 17 Jul 2015 @ 8:25am

        Re: Re: Trespassing

        > "That's a nice McDonalds you got there. Be a
        > shame if something were to happen to it. You
        > know how long emergency service response times
        > can be in this area...."

        "Snort my taint. I'll hire private security. Now fuck off."

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Tony Loro (profile), 16 Jul 2015 @ 10:13am

    think

    Never go up against an entity that buys it's printer ink in 500 gal lots.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Roger Strong (profile), 16 Jul 2015 @ 10:14am

    "The security of the Nation is not at the ramparts alone, Security also lies in the value of our free institutions. A cantankerous press, an obstinate press, a ubiquitous press must be suffered by those in authority in order to preserve the even greater values of freedom of expression and the right of the people to know."
    - U.S. District Judge Murray Gurfein

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Show Now: Takedown
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.