Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Indybay Journalists Charged with Felony: Conspiracy to Make Media

March 20, 2012 Indybay.org

Viewpoint Discrimination and Selective Prosecution at Work in Charges
Against Independent Journalists

SANTA CRUZ, CA — District Attorney Bob Lee has embarked on a full frontal
assault against independent media in Santa Cruz by including four regular
contributors to the independent news website Indybay.org amongst the
eleven people charged with multiple felonies and misdemeanors after the
occupation of a vacant bank building on November 30th, 2011. District
Attorney Lee apparently believes it is his duty to dictate how events such
as the occupation of the vacant bank at 75 River Street should be reported
on by the media, and if he does not approve of the coverage, then
journalists risk the DA bringing charges against them.

Bradley Stuart Allen and Alex Darocy are Indybay photojournalists and
Indybay editors who were reporting on the occupation. No charges nor
arrests were made at the time, but warrants were issued over two months
later on February 8th, 2012 — for Bradley, Alex, and nine other
individuals. Alex was arrested at his home before he could submit to the
surprise warrant. Bradley and Alex were originally charged with felony
vandalism, felony conspiracy, and two counts of misdemeanor trespass, but
after a three-day preliminary hearing starting March 13th the felony
vandalism charge against both was dropped. Alex and Bradley remain out of
police custody on their own recognizance.

Selective Prosecution

On the face of it, the misdemeanor trespass charges filed against both
Alex and Bradley for documenting the occupation from inside of the
building seem in line with a February 8th press release from the DA which
declared that the "District Attorney's Office remains committed to
enforcing the law." But the DA fails to mention that his office is not
committed to enforcing the law consistently and that the charges against
Alex and Bradley are clearly a case of selective prosecution. District
Attorney Lee knows full well that a staff photographer for the Santa Cruz
Sentinel newspaper likewise shot photographs from inside of the occupied
bank building, yet Lee has chosen not to file any charges against him. Why
would a District Attorney pursue such a selective prosecution?

Viewpoint Discrimination

Upon reading court filings and hearing statements made by the District
Attorney during the preliminary hearing for Bradley and Alex, it is
apparent that District Attorney Lee believes he is entitled to dictate the
terms of media coverage in Santa Cruz County. In a brief filed prior to
the preliminary hearing, DAs Lee and Rebekah Young wrote this about Alex's
and Bradley's coverage of the occupation: "Their postings contain no
interviews (or even attempted interviews) with representatives from the
police, with the property owners, or with members of the community who
might not have been in favor of the group's conduct." This is clearly
viewpoint discrimination on the part of the District Attorney. According
to Bob Lee's logic, if journalists do not interview police for a story,
then somehow those journalists' rights and privileges as members of the
media no longer matter.

Conspiracy to Make Media

As for the most serious remaining charge, felony conspiracy, District
Attorney Lee has offered absolutely no supporting evidence of a criminal
collusion. The DA has not argued that Alex and Bradley had prior knowledge
that the building would be occupied. The DA simply asserts that the mere
act of newsgathering at an announced demonstration, which turned into an
unannounced building occupation, constitutes felony conspiracy to promote
trespass and vandalism. In the same preliminary hearing supplemental brief
referenced above, the DA wrote: "The defendants' presence and postings...
aided and abetted the organization's occupation of the property." From
this, District Attorney Lee takes another leap by claiming that Bradley
and Alex "effectively serv[ed] as the media arm of the organization; the
group's propagandists." The "conspiracy" is nothing more than reporting on
a newsworthy event.

Ben Rice, who is representing Bradley, states, "As the control of 'news'
is increasingly controlled by the '1 percent' we have to stop the
government from deciding who or what sources may lawfully provide
alternate sides to important stories. At Bradley's preliminary hearing, we
presented evidence from expert witnesses that Indymedia and Bradley are
legitimate news sources. We provided evidence that Bradley has been using
his skill as a photojournalist for ten years to examine many of our
world's most perplexing social problems. Bradley's focus on those issues
is particularly important because so many of them are ignored by
mainstream media. The judge's determination to keep the conspiracy charge
alive should give all journalists pause."

Free Alex and Bradley! Independent Media Is Not a Crime!

The National Press Photographers Association (NPAA) and The Reporters
Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP) wrote a Letter Brief addressed
to the court seeking dismissal of charges. In a related joint press
release, the NPAA and RCFP wrote: "This is just the most recent case where
journalists have been interfered with and arrested while covering Occupy
Wall Street protests throughout the country. In almost every case, those
charges — ranging from disorderly conduct and obstruction of governmental
administration to trespass — have been dismissed or the defendant
journalists have been acquitted." So why is Bob Lee pursuing these
charges, at taxpayer expense, unless to unfairly promote one journalistic
viewpoint over another by deterring independent journalists from closely
reporting on social justice movements as they happen.

Stop the harassment and intimidation of independent journalists! Drop the
charges against Bradley Stuart Allen and Alex Darocy now!


About the Santa Cruz and SF Bay Area Independent Media Centers

Santa Cruz Indymedia has been the Independent Media Center (IMC) for the
Monterey Bay Area since 2001. In 2006, Santa Cruz IMC became regionally
integrated with Indybay.org, the website of the San Francisco Bay Area
IMC, itself online since 2000. Together these Northern California IMCs are
a non-commercial, democratic collective of independent media makers and
media outlets serving as the local organizing unit of the global Indymedia

For more information and further updates about the case, see:


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