Lawyer defends trial of journalist arrested for covering BLM protests | Black Lives Matter News

An Iowa attorney defended his unsuccessful prosecution of charges against a reporter who was arrested while covering a Black Lives Matter event, saying on Thursday he believed the evidence was strong and that dismissing the case would have constituted special treatment.

Polk County District Attorney John Sarcone, a Democrat in office since 1991, dismissed the outrage he suffered over his decision to prosecute Des Moines Registry reporter Andrea Sahouri as unwarranted.

A policeman of the Monks pepper sprayed and stopped Sahouri last May, while on a mission to report on a chaotic Black Lives Matter protest outside a shopping mall. Sahouri, 25, was accused of disobeying police orders to disperse and interfering with the officer who arrested her.

A jury acquitted Sahouri of the two offenses on Wednesday after a three-day trial. Outside observers said they were stunned by the prosecution’s weak evidence and baffled by Sarcone’s decision to continue the case for nine months.

“We felt that the facts were more than sufficient to establish the case. Based on the facts and the law, we proceeded, ”Sarcone told The Associated Press by phone Thursday. “We take the cases to the jurors and let them decide. What I find it hard to understand is how everyone wants to bypass the jury process.

Dozens of press freedom and civil liberties groups called on Sarcone to dismiss the charges last year, saying Sahouri was doing his job and journalists should be free to cover protests.

Sarcone said he couldn’t let outside pressure or criticism influence prosecution decisions. He also denied having had an “ulterior motive” in bringing an action against a newspaper which had criticized him in the past.

Sarcone said Des Moines Police investigators believed Sahouri broke the law by staying near members of an illegal assembly who damaged business property and threw stones at officers after they were told to go. His office agreed.

“She was arrested an hour and a half after the dispersal orders were given. These are legal orders. People cannot challenge these legal orders, ”said Sarcone. “No one is above the law.”

Sahouri and others said they never heard them. The orders were issued 90 minutes before Sahouri’s arrest as police attempted to clear an intersection where protesters surrounded a police car. Officers were also heard telling protesters to “back off” and demonstrate peacefully.

Sahouri continued her reporting and was then sprayed with cayenne pepper and arrested as she walked away from another location where police used tear gas to disperse protesters.

Sahouri, who is Palestinian American, has identified herself several times as a journalist but has nevertheless been jailed. A white colleague on the registry, Katie Akin, was next to her and was not arrested. Another officer testified that he let Akin go because she seemed docile and scared.

Sarcone has denied claims that journalists’ errands played a role in their treatment, saying Akin “was probably lucky” not to be arrested.

Sahouri told the AP on Thursday that she was the only journalist arrested that day, and she said it was “extremely ironic” that prosecutors used footage of television reporters at the scene in their statement. case against it. She rejected a pre-trial plea deal in which she allegedly pleaded guilty to failing to disperse and the other charge was reportedly dismissed, saying she was grateful the Registry funded her defense.

“I was doing my job while complying with police orders,” she said. “I literally didn’t do anything wrong.”

Polk County Assistant District Attorney Bradley Kinkade delivers a final statement during the trial of journalist Andrea Sahouri after being arrested while covering a protest, at the Drake University Legal Clinic in Des Moines, Iowa, on March 10, 2021 [Kelsey Kremer/The Register/USA Today Network via Reuters]

Several Democrats have pledged to find a candidate to oppose Sarcone in a primary next year if he runs for a 9th four-year term. Sarcone, 70, declined to say whether he would stand for re-election, but he largely defended his tenure as a success.

Sarcone won his first election by defeating a Democratic incumbent in a 1990 primary in which he criticized his opponent for delegating too much power to an MP, Maggi Moss. He has not faced an opponent since.

Moss, who was sacked by Sarcone and later became a successful defense lawyer, said Thursday she was disturbed by a video showing Sahouri suffering from pepper spray. She said she was amazed that the case had been pursued in the face of “common sense, the Constitution and individual rights.”

“It leaves a bad taste. It was pointless. It served no public purpose. It was sad, ”Moss said. “Whatever John’s legacy, I think it will corrupt him forever.”

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