Reporter pleads not guilty to charges of assault with car
CALIFORNIA–A Los Angles journalist pleaded not guilty in mid- June in Los Angeles County Superior Court to the charge of assault with a deadly weapon, saying that his press pass gave him the right to drive his car through police lines.
Tony Lewis, a reporter and executive at American Radio Network, a Hollywood-based radio news service, said he was trying to enter an area blocked off by police investigating a murder, in order to park his car in his radio station’s parking lot.
Several other people were wandering across police lines when Lewis first asked permission to pass, he claimed, but officers ignored him and walked away.
Frustrated, Lewis said he drove his car through the tape and into the lot, after which he said he was surrounded by police with guns drawn and pointing at him.
The arrest report states that Lewis accelerated through crime scene tape “narrowly avoiding striking an officer.” That same officer, Kelly Artz, arrested Lewis and impounded his car.
Lewis’ attorney Bruce Robertson said police could have charged Lewis with unlawfully endangering a crime scene because he crossed the line without permission, which carries a maximum fine of $2,500. But if he is convicted on the felony assault charge, he faces the possibility of a three-to-five-year jail sentence.
Lewis maintained that there were no police officers near the location where he drove through the tape. He claimed that he did not actually endanger a crime scene even though he crossed the police line because the victim lay half a block away.
The case will go before a jury in early August with pre-trial hearings beginning as early as July. (California v. Lewis; Media Counsel: Bruce Robertson, Los Angeles)