NEWS MEDIA UPDATE · FLORIDA · Newsgathering · July 7, 2005
Journalist faces charges in alleged elections violation
July 7, 2005 · A journalist arrested in November after taking pictures of voters in long lines outside of election headquarters in Palm Beach County, Fla., must face trial on two of the three charges against him, a judge ruled Tuesday.
James S. Henry, a lawyer, author and freelance photographer, was charged with unlawful solicitation of voters, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct under a rule instituted last October that prohibits soliciting voters within 50 feet of polling places.
Henry’s lawyer argued that working journalists are excluded from the ban, but former Elections Supervisor Theresa LePore said in December that she instituted the ban, which prohibits photographing or interviewing voters in line at polling places, because of voter complaints and security issues.
In previous interviews, Henry said he was taking pictures about 30 feet from a line of voters when he was approached by a Palm Beach sheriff’s deputy, who checked Henry’s credentials and then asked him to step back to the media area, about 150 feet away.
Henry refused, and when the officer threatened arrest, he aimed his camera as though he was going to continue taking pictures. The sheriff’s deputy charged at him, he said, and he began to run away, but tripped and fell. The deputy fell on top of him, ripped his shirt, and threw him against a car before arresting him, he said. He was eventually released on $500 bail.
Palm Beach County Judge Peter Evans agreed Tuesday with a motion by Henry’s attorney, Richard Lubin, to dismiss the disorderly conduct charge. He denied the motion to dismiss the other two charges, however.
Lubin said he is unsure of whether they would go forward with a First Amendment case for taking pictures at a polling place, saying they may move forward on the merits of the case alone.
“I don’t think they can prove he violated the law even if it [the ban] is constitutional,” he said.
(State of Florida v. James S. Henry, Media Counsel: Richard G. Lubin, West Palm Beach, Fla.) — JM