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Convictions of reporters' assailants affirmed by D.C. appellate court

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    NMU         WASHINGTON, D.C.         Newsgathering    

Convictions of reporters’ assailants affirmed by D.C. appellate court

  • The convictions of a charter school principal and two staff members for assaulting a pair of journalists from The Washington Times is upheld.

Oct. 23, 2003 — The Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., last week upheld the convictions of three charter school staff members who assaulted two journalists and two police officers in 1996. In declining their motion for a second trial, the judge rejected the argument that the three acted in defense of private property.

On Dec. 3, 1996, Principal Mary A.T. Anigbo of the Marcus Garvey Public Charter School in Washington, D.C., staff members and students assaulted Washington Times reporter Susan Ferrechio, who was at the school working on a story. According to court records, Ferrechio’s notebook was taken from her during the altercation. Times photographer Clifford Owen later went to Marcus Garvey to take photos of Ferrechio’s attackers, and school staff members took his camera.

The two staff members convicted were Serena Smith and Brenda Gatlin.

In upholding the six-count indictment — ranging from charges of assault to confiscating “property” from the victims — the appeals court held Oct. 16 that Anigbo was not entitled to bar people from the school, as she argued. Moreover, the court said, the school’s doors were unlocked, allowing public entrance, and the “appellants did not have a legitimate expectation of privacy.”

Finally, the court held, the appellants were not entitled to “the defense of property defense” because they could have called police to escort away anyone who was not allowed on the premises.

Anigbo, who was convicted on three counts, was ordered to serve two years of “supervised probation” and 240 hours of community service. Gatlin, convicted on three counts, and Smith, convicted on one, were each ordered to serve one year of probation and 120 hours of community service.

(Gatlin v. U.S.; Smith v. U.S., Anigbo v. U.S.) VR

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© 2003 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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