|NMU||NEW YORK||Newsgathering||Jul 7, 2000|
Reporter’s arrest in long-running quarrel with officer dismissed
- A judge dismissed the case against a reporter for an alternative newspaper who was arrested for trespassing, harassment and disorderly conduct while trying to attend a convention.
There was insufficient evidence to support the charges against the Buffalo Beat reporter who was arrested after he entered a hotel to cover a convention held by a city official whom he regularly criticized in print and battled in the courtroom, a Buffalo City Court judge held July 7.
Judge Thomas Franczyk ruled that because the charges could be dismissed due to insufficient allegations of fact, there was no need to examine the reporter’s First Amendment argument.
Reporter Richard Kern’s arrest was the latest altercation in a four-year quarrel with police officer and convention sponsor Robert Quintana. Kern has been arrested eight times in recent years while covering city hall stories in Buffalo, and five of those arrests were based on complaints from Quintana or his friends and associates.
Kern claims that as he stepped off of the hotel elevator to attend the convention, Quintana ran towards him yelling obscenities and had him held by another off-duty officer until the police arrived.
But a complaint filed by Quintana’s girlfriend, Mildred Castro, alleges that the reporter “did act in a threatening manner, holding his arm in a forceful manner with his fist closed, yelling at coordinatores (sic) and insisting on forcing his way through the crowd.”
The court dismissed all of the charges against Kern, citing insufficient evidence to substantiate the allegations.
Franczyk noted that it was Castro, not a hotel official, who filed the trespassing complaint. Additionally, the court failed to find any evidence that the conference was a private or restricted event to which Kern should not have access.
Kern’s attorney, Michael Kuzma, was relieved that the court dismissed what he believed to be erroneous accusations against the reporter.
“They basically manufactured charges against him,” Kuzma alleged.
Kuzma was critical of the fact that Quintana — a former city council member — has used what the attorney considered threatening and intimidating tactics, including filing police complaints, in response to a reporter’s efforts to cover city officials.
“If you’re that thin skinned, you shouldn’t be on the city council or the police department,” Kuzma said.
Quintana could not be reached for a response.
This altercation is nothing new for Kern and Quintana. When Quintana was elected to the city council in 1995, Kern was one of his supporters. But after Quintana allegedly failed to deliver on campaign promises, Kern’s opinion and coverage of the official quickly soured. According to Kern, Quintana and his family hold this negative press “heavily responsible” for the official’s failure to win reelection in 1999.
The four-year battle between the reporter and the official has included physical, verbal and written attacks, as well as arrests for both men.
(New York v. Kern; Media Counsel: Michael Kuzma) — SK
© 2000 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press