Student photojournalist acquitted in one of the first Occupy Wall Street trials

Josh Hoberman | Newsgathering | News | May 18, 2012

In one of the first Occupy Wall Street cases to proceed to trial, a New York University student journalist charged with disorderly conduct was acquitted on Wednesday after video proved he did not commit any violation while covering a protest in January.

While photographing the march in downtown Manhattan on Jan. 1, Alexander Arbuckle was one of many arrested for disorderly conduct for allegedly standing in the streets and blocking traffic after multiple police warnings to stay out of the roads.

Ironically, Arbuckle was working on a school photojournalism project focusing on the police’s point of view. He believed the media were focused on the Occupy marchers’ perspectives.

According to the New York District Attorney’s Office, a majority of Occupy Wall Street cases have already been resolved, primarily through adjournments in contemplation of dismissal; if the defendant stays out of trouble for six months, all charges are dismissed. However, Arbuckle challenged the disorderly conduct charge in court and said he was only photographing the march.

At trial, both sides submitted video evidence of the day in question. The prosecution showed police footage showing the defendant at a time prior to arrest, though it did not document the incident in question. The defense offered videographer Tim Pool’s footage of Arbuckle's arrest, which showed the student on the sidewalk and not on the road as police said. The judge acquitted Arbuckle.

Other journalists were arrested along with Arbuckle. One of the student's attorneys, Gideon Oliver, said that a reporter for The Guardian testified that he witnessed reporters being thrown against the wall and arrested.

“We have evaluated each of the approximately 2,200 Occupy Wall Street cases individually, just as we do with the more than 100,000 cases this Office prosecutes each year. The outcome of one case does not reflect the outcome of another,” said Joan Vollero, spokesperson at the District Attorney’s Office, commenting on whether the acquittal would affect ongoing and future Occupy prosecutions.

Oliver hoped that there would be some consequences seen from the decision. "Hopefully, the Courts will begin to look at the other cases proceeding to trial and, as a result, we might see some voluntary dismissals."

Related Reporters Committee resources:

· News: Roundup: Treatment of reporters at NYC Occupy raid