District of Columbia

Attorneys for Aaron Cantú File Motion to Dismiss Charges in Inauguration Day Arrest

Jose Ochoa | Newsgathering | News | January 19, 2018
News
January 19, 2018
Lawyers for journalist Aaron Cantú filed a motion Friday to dismiss charges stemming from his arrest while covering the Inauguration Day protests on Jan. 20, 2017.
 
Cantú, who now works for the Santa Fe Reporter, was covering the protests in Washington, D.C., as a freelance journalist. He was one of several protesters, journalists and others who were penned in by police for hours before many of them were arrested.
 
The motion argued that the indictment violates Cantú’s First Amendment rights as a journalist and that the District of Columbia’s riot laws are unconstitutionally vague as applied in this case.
 

United States v. Wood

December 21, 2017

The Reporters Committee wrote a letter to the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia to express its concern regarding statements made during the closing arguments in the prosecution of Alexei Wood.  Wood live-streamed the January 20, 2017 Inauguration Day protest in Washington, DC, and was arrested and charged with various crimes stemming from his presence at the protest.  He was acquitted on December 21, 2017.  During closing arguments, the Assistant United States Attorney argued that Wood could not be an "up-and-coming journalist" because of Wood's familiarity with certain terms like "black bloc" and "kettle" and commented on Wood's "fake press badge."  The Reporters Committee's letter emphasized that newsgatherers must be familiar with the subject matter they cover, including its terminology, and that reporters are not required to have a press pass to cover a protest on public streets.

One reporter still faces Inauguration charges in D.C.

Emily Miller | News | July 24, 2017
News
July 24, 2017
Six months after the Presidential Inauguration, one reporter still faces charges springing from the mass arrests of protesters in downtown Washington, D.C., that day.
 
Aaron Cantu, a freelance writer and now a staff reporter with the Santa Fe Reporter, was among 36 defendants arraigned before the Washington, D.C., Superior Court on June 9 after being arrested during the protests on January 20. Cantu, who was working as a freelance journalist at the time of the protests, faces eight felony charges, including inciting to riot, rioting, conspiracy to riot, and five felony destruction of property charges. He has pleaded not guilty. If convicted, however, he could face up to 75 years in prison. 
 

Journalists face charges in Inauguration arrests; one sees charges dropped

Emma Lux | Newsgathering | News | January 27, 2017
News
January 27, 2017

Charges have been dropped against one of the seven individuals arrested and charged with felony rioting while covering the anti-Trump protests last Friday, according to a filing by the U.S. Attorney’s office in D.C. Superior Court.

Evan Engel, who works at the news site Vocativ, had been released pending trial last weekend. The rioting charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine.

“After consultation with the counsel for Mr. Engel, who is a journalist with Vocativ, as well as a review of evidence presented to us by law enforcement, we have concluded that we will not proceed with the charge against this individual,” prosecutors said in a media statement. Engel's lawyer is former White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler.

Court rules FOIA can apply to private email accounts

Sophie Murguia | Freedom of Information | News | July 6, 2016
News
July 6, 2016

Agency records can be subject to the Freedom of Information Act even if they are kept in an employee’s nongovernmental email account, a federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday.

The ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in Competitive Enterprise Institute v. Office of Science and Technology Policy reversed a decision by a district court, which dismissed the case last year. The D.C. Circuit’s decision could set an important precedent for journalists and other FOIA requesters by clarifying that agency records are subject to FOIA regardless of their location.

FBI failed to follow its own rules when it impersonated The Associated Press in a 2007 investigation

Hannah Bloch-Wehba | Freedom of Information | Commentary | April 28, 2016
Commentary
April 28, 2016

The FBI failed to follow its own rules when agents impersonated an Associated Press reporter in order to locate a criminal suspect in 2007, according to documents newly released in response to a FOIA lawsuit filed by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and The Associated Press.

The documents further show that after the impersonation became public, an FBI analysis determined that the non-compliance was reasonable, raising questions about the efficacy of the guidelines altogether.

The Reporters Committee and AP sued the FBI Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Justice last August for records related to the FBI’s practice of impersonating the news media.

Comments on D.C. bodycam legislation

October 21, 2015

The Reporters Committee submitted testimony to the Judiciary Committee of the D.C. Council in response to a public hearing on three bills related to the Metropolitan Police Department's use of body-worn cameras (BWC). The testimony argues that no modifications should be made to the D.C. Freedom of Information Act regarding BWC videos, and includes additional information regarding the failure of the Mayor's Office to incorporate the recommendations of the BWC Advisory Group.

New D.C. bodycam policies too restrictive, critics testify

Soo Rin Kim | Freedom of Information | News | October 29, 2015
News
October 29, 2015

Open-government advocates warned District of Columbia officials last week that exemption of all police body-worn camera footage showing "assaults" will undermine the very purpose of the program, as will other provisions designed to delay or deny the release of footage to the public.

The discussion came at a D.C. Council committee's public hearing to discuss three proposed amendments regarding the Metropolitan Police Department’s bodycam program.

The debate centered on how to balance transparency and privacy concerns and whether police body-worn camera recordings should be granted special treatment outside the existing D.C. Freedom of Information Act.

“It is our view that body camera footage is just another public record in simply different format,” said Rebecca Snyder, the President of Maryland, Delaware and D.C. Press Association President.

Body cameras meant to improve accountability, but D.C. police won't release images, panelists say

Michael Lambert | Freedom of Information | News | September 30, 2015
News
September 30, 2015

Although D.C. police officials said one of the aims of its police body camera program was to increase the police's accountability to the public, the public has yet to view any of the footage after repeated public records requests, experts said at a recent panel discussion.

A panel of open record and privacy advocates, including two members of the Reporters Committee staff, explored the current state of police body camera programs and why the recordings have been shielded from the public at an event organized by the D.C. Open Government Coalition and hosted at the Newseum on Sept. 16.

Caplan v. WP Company LLC v. District of Columbia

June 15, 2015

The Washington Post sought access to a sealed summary judgment motion and a sealed opinion granting summary judgment in a civil case in the District of Columbia Superior Court. The civil case was filed by a couple whose children were removed from their home on suspicion of child abuse. A family court later found no reason to suspect abuse, and the children were returned to the home. The Caplans later sued the Family Services Agency for negligent and malicious conduct, and the court denied public access to the case. The Post appealed to the D.C. Court of Appeals.