Free Press

Iowa Reporter Acquitted After Being Arrested While Covering George Floyd Protests

The case drew national outrage from press freedom groups, who called the prosecution excessive and a threat to journalism.

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A jury acquitted Des Moines Register reporter Andrea Sahouri today of two misdemeanor charges stemming from her coverage of protests last year in a case closely watched by press freedom advocates.

Sahouri was pepper-sprayed and arrested by Des Moines police while covering protests over the police killing of George Floyd last May. Prosecutors and police claimed that Sahouri and her boyfriend ignored orders to disperse and interfered with an arrest, two misdemeanor offenses.

According to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, 128 journalists were arrested or detained in the U.S. last year during the months of unrest that followed Floyd's killing, but Sahouri was one of the only journalists whose charges weren't dropped by prosecutors. The case drew national attention and outrage from press freedom groups, which called the Polk County District Attorney's decision to prosecute Sahouri outrageous, excessive, and wasteful.

"The acquittal of journalist Andrea Sahouri in Iowa today is a welcome relief, but Polk County prosecutors never should have filed charges against her in the first place," Committee to Protect Journalists program director Carlos Martinez de la Serna said in a press release. "Reporting is not a crime, and journalists should not be punished for doing their jobs and covering matters of public interest."

The arresting officer, Luke Wilson, testified that he was clearing a street of an unruly mob and wasn't aware that Sahouri was a reporter. Sahouri was not wearing a press badge. However, Sahouri and other journalists who were on the scene sharply disputed the police account of her arrest.

"I see an officer coming at me, so immediately I put up my hands and I say 'I'm press' because he was coming like, right at me, and I didn't think it was a good idea to run from officers," Sahouri testified during her trial. "He grabbed me, he pepper-sprayed me and as he was doing so said, 'That's not what I asked.'"

Body camera footage could have cleared this up, but, after a judge ordered prosecutors to produce the video, it was revealed that Wilson did not save the footage of Sahouri's arrest and did not report it to his supervising officer, as department rules required.

Last year, a federal judge in Portland ordered police to stop targeting reporters with less-than-lethal munitions and exempted journalists and legal observers from orders to disperse.

New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit in January against New York City for what she says was unchecked excessive force and false arrests by NYPD against protesters, medics, and legal observers.

After her trial concluded today, Sahouri tweeted one word: "Acquitted."

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  1. …it was revealed that Wilson did not save the footage of Sahouri’s arrest and did not report it to his supervising officer, as department rules required.

    That’s not a red flag at all.

    1. Just another attempt by the fascist Republican in our society to suppress freedom of the press. I guess local county pigs haven’t heard that journalists have special clearance to cover protests and read classified emails published on Wikileaks (e.g. Hillary Clinton’s stolen emails). I wish I went to journalism school so I could have Andrew Cuomo’s equivalent security clearance to read leaked government documents and discuss the contents of those documents on CNN.

    2. The BF probably bribed him to have it deleted so evidence that she makes him carry a ‘Press Groupie’ badge didn’t come out at trial.

      He erased the tape and it was agreed that an acquittal was in everyone’s best interest.

      1. Des Moines is run by Democrats.

  2. Still not a single word from Reason about a man facing ten years in federal prison for the heinous crime of posting memes. One almost starts to get the sense that Reason’s libertarianism, tattered as it is, stands in reserve exclusively for the right people — or, better stated, for the left people.

    1. Some speech is more protected than others.

      1. If I want to listen to a rube analyze the latest wrestling match, I would move to Iowa. I watch MSNBC / CNN because of their in depth coverage of important political topics by the intellectuals they invite on.

        1. Hahaha haha- oh, wait, you’re serious.

          1. I’m not certain he is.

    2. Have you ever checked out churchofsqrls.com? Brilliant!

      1. Preaching to the choir, pal! I’m a disciple. Loyal and dedicated. The thing that impresses me the most — and maybe it’s just me — is that the Church mails out pre-packaged meals! Three square meals of shit a day! A day! I’ve never been this excited in my life.

        And, unlike Jesus and all that Christian mumbo-jumbo, this stuff is real. REAL!

        1. Yes and it’s great that they are non-political. For example they don’t say a word about freedom for posting memes. Best to avoid controversial subjects.

          1. (To be clear, I think it’s hypocritical to demand that Reason publish on a topic that you refuse to publicize on your own site.)

            1. It’s not my site retard. You’re the worst spam bot ever.

              1. Unless you have a proven record of advocating libertarian principles anywhere other than here, you have no right to demand Reason flog your pet issue. That’s blatant hypocrisy.

                1. 1. Does the proven record have to be notarized?
                  2. Do you understand the meaning of the word “hypocrisy?”
                  3. Your programmers did a shit job with your code, because your responses are coming out like a game of mad libs.

                  1. She needs your libertarian ID card. Government issued.

                  2. If you had a record you’d gladly show it off like I do. But you refuse because you have no proof. No you can’t demand Reason advocate your pet issue when you are terrified to do it yourself – that is pure hypocrisy. You should be thanking Reason that they even let you comment here. Instead you cowardly bicker with your allies so you can score a cheap ‘win’ and brag to your husband, “I kicked socialist ass online today.” Except I’m libertarian and anyway, that only proves my point.

                    (Having said that – thank you Reason for not banning me (yet) today!)

                2. Well, I’m glad AM is making rules for all of us. I for one welcome his unilateral would making, and will of course comply.

        2. What’s SQRLSY’s stance on kiddie diddling? Is he cool with it?
          Because Jesus’ whole “it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be thrown into the sea” scares me a little.

          1. “What’s SQRLSY’s stance on kiddie diddling?”

            I think he is probably cool with any stance, provided he is on top.

            1. I disagree.

              I’m pretty sure SQRLSY is a bottom, and a sloppy one at that.

      2. I will have to check that one out. I am in the market for a new place to worship. Someone recently pointed out that my tighty whities might not be an effective magical deterrent against all forms of physical harm as I had been lead to believe.

        Does churchofsqrls have a branch in Cambridge, perchance?

        1. You’re not funny or clever mormon

          1. You’re mad because my polygamous ways are spreading to the more enlightened states.

    3. Nor the Chauvin trial, in which most potential jurors are terrified of blmantifa mobs attacking their homes if chosen.
      Curious.

      1. They do not want to blow their loads too soon. Once Chauvin is acquitted, they can then proceed to pump out 100+ articles about how we have all just witnessed the most monumental miscarriage of justice in the history of this country, while conveniently excusing the fact that Minneapolis has been razed to the ground as a “local story.”

    4. The defendant should have got a 1st Amendment license if he wanted to practice 1st Amendment stuff. The acquitted reporterette had her papers in order.

  3. Conundrum: Who to side with when there’s whiny entitled bitches on one side, and whiny entitled bitches on t’other. I guess it’s whiny entitled bitch reporters in this case, but it’s really close.

    1. Body camera footage could have cleared this up,

      You mean like the footage of Sicknick getting hit in the head with a fire extinguisher?

      I’m beginning to disagree with this premise. I’ve played enough Deus Ex/Assassin’s Creed/Thief/Metal Gear Solid that I’m fairly certain that I could show up at a protest with my reporter GF, hit the officer with an object outside the camera’s cone of vision and effectively stage a situation where it looked like a police officer just decided to go apeshit on a member of the press.

      That’s not to say that that’s what happened in this case, but there are plenty of cases where such framing was obvious and favorable reporting specifically reiterated the false narrative.

    2. No. The reporters are wholly in the wrong here.
      Last year, a federal judge in Portland ordered police to stop targeting reporters with less-than-lethal munitions and exempted journalists and legal observers from orders to disperse.

      In CJs link that was a case where the government argued the press doesn’t have special rights and the judge ruled “freedom of the press” is a special right of immunity granted to journos.

      1. Judge should be impeached. USSC already said they were not in the blogging suit.

  4. You know what’s a threat to journalism?
    Modern journalists.

    1. Obama tapped 20 Associated Press office phone lines and the homes and phones of reporters but the real threat to press freedom was mean tweets and this.

    2. Nardz aren’t you like 105?

      Goddamn you’re senile

      1. Sarc ask you to stop highlighting his alcoholism?

        1. He got close – only 7 decades off.
          Real genius there. He gets mockery and the necessity to get at least somewhere in the vicinity of its mark!

          1. You said your wife was 17 and hiding in Libya in like 67. Are you a lot younger than your wife?

        2. Not worth it; flag, refresh.

  5. police claimed that Sahouri and her boyfriend ignored orders to disperse and interfered with an arrest

    So no contention that her BF was there, right? Nothing says “trained professional serving in a purely professional capacity” like dragging your fuck buddy along. If you add the 1A and spousal privilege together and subtract 5 points because he’s not her spouse, it still adds up to an acquittal for him too, right?

    1. Somebody had to carry the bear spray and fireworks.

  6. No credentials. Was not their in official capacity.

    1. I wonder how one gets “credentialed?” Can we all be “press?” If not, why not? Government shouldn’t make journalists, whether reporting here on Hit & Run, or for WaPo, meet criteria for being credentialed.

      1. Remember, when, as Pangolin mentioned above, and CJ linked in the article, a judge declared that journalists enjoy a special exemption from police action and / or prosecution? All the antifa dipshits in Portland started wearing the word ‘PRESS’ on their gear.

        I don’t think that a ‘professional’ journalist should enjoy any more 1A freedoms than the rest of us rubes. If I want to go visit a protest and document it – for whatever reason – I should be as free to do so as anyone from CNN or any other news outlets. I also shouldn’t be immune from any otherwise illegal activities that I happen to join or commit while I’m there, and neither should the ‘pros’.

        On the other hand, painting the word ‘PRESS’ on your Blac Bloc Antifa BMX motocross chest protector and attempting to abuse whatever enhanced leeway is apparently reserved for professional journalists, while you throw molotov cocktails at police – That seems like a real quick and effective way to curtail ALL press freedoms.

        You, me, reporters for Reason or WaPo or CNN, Andy Ngo, ought to be at least engaged in documentary sort of activities at the time in question. But the credentials can go to hell – I think they might be useful for pros who can use it as a tool to easily identify themselves to police, but they shouldn’t be a requirement.

      2. Indeed. To get valid press credentials: get a piece of paper and a crayon and write “press” on it. It’s no less valid than a laminated piece of paper with more words on it made by some company.

        “Press” isn’t an official position, it’s an act. Credentials shouldn’t enter into it.

      3. Freedom of the press is freedom of the written word. Breaking laws to get a story means you should face the consequences of breaking those laws, but you should not be prevented (or punished) for writing it.

        Are journalists now a protected class because we refer to them, colloquially, as “the press” when any Tom, Dick, and Harry should also be capable of publishing a story?

        I hate this idea that that part of the first ammendment seems to only apply to the professional class. I think if it were considered to apply to anyone who publishes or disseminates the written word would change these positions on excusing outright law breaking by journos.

        I swear, she used her profession as a license to do what she thinks no one else has a right to do.

        1. A democrat would use this as an excuse to license journalists. Of course only party members in good standing are eligible.

  7. Out of curiosity, was the boyfriend’s name Nathan Phillips?

  8. OT. Don’t know if anybody linked this but it’s pretty interesting look at natural gas v. wind in Texas. And resident climate change enthusiast Ron Bailey gets a not so honorable mention.
    https://www.zerohedge.com/political/wind-power-disaster-texas-no-matter-what-paul-krugman-says

  9. If it was some fascist live streamer arrested on January 6th all the traitors on here would be freaking out.

    1. And Reason would be applauding.

      I guess the wrong Koch died.

  10. Last year, a federal judge in Portland ordered police to stop targeting reporters with less-than-lethal munitions and exempted journalists and legal observers from orders to disperse.

    Why did a judge in Portland have to exempt journalists from orders to disperse? According to this case in Iowa City, journalists are already exempt from orders to disperse. And who knows what all laws they’re exempt from – perhaps freedom of the press is the one right guaranteed under the Constitution that is absolute and they’re exempt from all laws. This poor woman even told the cops she was a journalist and they still arrested her anyway, which is an outrage. It’s not like they arrested the Queen of England or the Pope or something, they arrested a fucking journalist!

  11. Months of UNREST? unrest is when i can’t sleep. Riots stupid

  12. meanwhile antifa are covering themselves with PRESS signs and assaulting cops

    kenosha should have built kyle rittenhouse a statue and prosecuted every one of his living attackers for felony murder, setting a dumpster fire at a gas station near a crowd is obviously about a dozen felonies alone

    but when the DA is a Democrat, Justice pulls up the left side of her blindfold and winks

    now even fed charges are being dropped

    suburbs won’t stand for this

    1. Probably Soros backed.

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