A Pennsylvania prosecutor who already has a history of blundering prosecutions has refiled charges against a college photojournalist who was arrested while photographing a post-game riot last October.
Centre County District Attorney Michael Maidera decided that the First Amendment has no relevance in the case of Michael Felletter, a Penn State student who was charged with failure to disperse upon order from the police and disorderly conduct while on assignment for the Daily Collegian.
Despite the fact that Felletter’s case was thrown out on January 21 when the arresting officer did not show up to court, Maidera refiled charges on January 28.
But Felletter, who was already cleared of wrongdoing by the university’s Judicial Affairs, told the Student Press Law Center that he is not backing down. And he has received support from the college journalism and legal network.
Collegian editors maintain it is a free-press issue because of phrasing in the criminal complaint, which alleges that Felletter “was observed participating in a riot of several thousand people by taking photographs which excited the crowd and encouraged destructive behavior.”
“To the board and myself, that’s very black and white – that’s saying he was rioting by being a member of the press covering the event,” Editor in Chief Terry Casey* said. “It’s very clearly to us a First Amendment issue.”
Adam Goldstein, legal advocate for the Student Press Law Center, agrees that the description of Felletter’s alleged crimes conflicts with his First Amendment rights.
“If documenting a criminal event is considered participating in that event, then there are criminals on the staff of every newspaper and TV station in America,” Goldstein said.
And from the Daily Illini, the University of Illinois newspaper:
But we wonder, had Felletter been an adult photographer for a professional newspaper, would he still have been charged with those two misdemeanors? Was it because he is a student, instead of a professional photographer, that he was more vulnerable, more subject to being arrested?
Meanwhile, Maidera, who is running for reelection, has a history of questionable prosecutions, including withholding evidence in a murder trial and attempting to use inadmissible evidence in pursuing a rape case against a Penn State football player, according to the Collegian.
On a Penn State forum, Maidera’s term as district attorney has been described as “full of mis-management and self-promotion” and “an embarrassment to the legal system” and he was even criticized for having attended Bob Jones University, which has produced more fundamentalist preachers than Constitutional attorneys.
But what can you expect from a guy who bears such a striking resemblance to Sean Hannity?
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