Charges dropped against photographers arrested in Idaho and New Mexico
ROUNDUP–Charges were dropped in August against photographers in Idaho and New Mexico who were both arrested for obstructing police officers.
A photographer for the Idaho Press-Tribune in Nampa-Caldwell was arrested in early August for obstructing the Idaho State Police in Canyon County as they exhumed a body from a cemetery. In New Mexico, Andrew Stiny, a free-lance journalist for the Albuquerque Journal, was jailed for four hours and his film was confiscated by the state police after he attempted to take photographs at the scene of a fatal car accident in early May.
Idaho Press-Tribune managing editor Wayne Cornell said the time and place of the exhumation had been announced to the media by Boise County Prosecutor David Charney, who was investigating a possible murder of a woman whose death became suspicious after her burial.
On August 8, Press-Tribune photographer Rob Bartholomew arrived at the cemetery to cover the story and the state police told him to leave, Cornell said. As the police took the body to a building outside of the cemetery, Bartholomew said he and another photographer also moved outside of the cemetery to an area where they tried to take photographs. Then, Bartholomew said, a state police officer told the other photographer, “Get back or I’ll arrest you.”
Bartholomew crossed the street where other people not involved with the exhumation were standing and it was then that he was arrested. The police took Bartholomew to a station and charged him with obstructing and delaying authorities and set his bond at $300. Cornell arrived before Bartholomew spent any time in jail and paid the bond. On the Monday after the incident, Canyon County Prosecutor Dave Young dropped the charges against Bartholomew, stating that the photographer was not properly informed of where he could and could not stand.
“Our contention all along has been that the police had never set up a defined line,” Cornell said, “The photographer has every right to be in a place where the general public can be.”
Idaho State Police Lieutenant Robert Lockett said that the photographers were kept out of the area because the exhumation was part of a homicide investigation. Lockett said Bartholomew was not in a public street and the police gave him several commands to move from the area to another area across the street.
Lockett added that the officer who arrested Bartholomew was following the instructions of Charney, the Boise County Prosecutor. But Cornell said Charney had announced the time and place of the exhumation to the media.
Charney was not available for comment, but his office said that Charney did not announce the exhumation and the reason Bartholomew had been charged was because he violated an Idaho code allowing “only such persons as are actually necessary” at disinterments.
In the New Mexico incident, freelance photojournalist Stiny was travelling on personal business when he came upon the scene of an auto accident. Stiny said when he began taking photographs, an officer told him to move away from an emergency helicopter.
After Stiny moved, an officer asked the photographer for identification, which, Stiny said, he gave to the officer. Stiny said he was then instructed to give the officer his camera.
“As soon as I refused to give him the camera, he went a little nuts,” Stiny said about the officer who arrested him. “He took the camera off my neck and I was tightly handcuffed. It was a totally bizarre situation.”
Before going to the police station, Stiny said he was put into a police car with all the windows closed. At one point the officer asked the photographer if it was hot enough for him, Stiny said.
Stiny was jailed for four hours before he was bailed out by an employee from the Albuquerque newspaper.
Stiny was charged with resisting or obstructing an officer. Sandoval County Assistant District Attorney Randy Chavez said there was not enough evidence to prosecute Stiny and the charges were dropped in early August.
Stiny said he intends to file a civil suit against the arresting officer and the New Mexico State Police.
A state police department spokesman was not available for comment, but according to the Albuquerque Journal, New Mexico State Police Captain David Osuna said that Stiny was arrested because he did not heed warnings to stay away from the helicopter.