Prosecutors in Ohio dropped the charges against a TV journalist who was arrested last week while reporting live from Governor Mark DeWine’s (R-OH) news conference about a massive train derailment.
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced on Wednesday the misdemeanor counts of resisting arrest and criminal trespassing against NewsNation reporter Evan Lambert had been dismissed.
“My office has reviewed the relevant video and documentary evidence, and is dismissing the charges against Evan Lambert as unsupported by sufficient evidence,” Yost said in a statement.
“While journalists could conceivably be subject to criminal charges for trespassing in some situations, this incident is not one of them,” Yost added. “The reporter was lawfully present at a press conference called by the Governor of the state. His conduct was consistent with the purpose of the event and his role as a reporter.”
#BREAKING: @EvanLambertTV, the NewsNation reporter arrested during an Ohio news conference last week, is no longer facing charges.
Watch #NewsNationLive: https://t.co/DhYRGUFsyt pic.twitter.com/JFQOpxd0dM
— NewsNation (@NewsNation) February 15, 2023
Video shows Lambert being handcuffed and arrested at the far end of a school gymnasium in East Palestine, where DeWine was holding a news conference about the derailment of a freight train carrying hazardous materials.
Local police said National Guard Adjutant General Maj. Gen. John Harris and two members of the highway patrol tried to stop the reporter because he was loud, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. NewsNation said Lambert finished his live report, but body-camera footage shows authorities insist Lambert leave, a command which Lambert refused to obey, citing the First Amendment.
In a statement, Harris claimed he felt Lambert was prepared to do him harm during their encounter, though Lambert did not appear to get physical with anyone. “I instinctively put my hands on his chest to keep him from bumping into me, which I felt was inevitable if I had not protected myself,” Harris said.
Authorities eventually removed Lambert from the event, forcing him to the ground as they handcuffed him. NewsNation said Lambert spent four hours in jail before being released.
“We believe that NewsNation’s Evan Lambert was simply doing his job — reporting from Governor DeWine’s press conference and updating viewers about the latest developments in the Ohio train derailment,” Michael Corn, president of News at NewsNation, said in a statement. “The many videos of this incident taken by bystanders and the recently released bodycam footage speak for themselves. Evan acted professionally and at a minimum, is owed an apology.”
Lambert released a lengthy statement of his own on Twitter, expressing his gratitude to DeWine, Yost, NewsNation and its parent company, Nexstar Media Group, and anyone else he said helped secure his release and the dismissal of charges from the “unjust and illegal arrest.” Lambert, who is black, said he was still processing the “traumatic event,” noting that he is “hyper aware of how frequently some police interactions with people of color can end in much worse circumstances.”
Still, Lambert said he has “great respect” for officers who do their jobs with “integrity, civil rights, justice and safety at the core of their mission.” In addition, Lambert said he hopes his situation brings “further attention on the people of East Palestine, who rightly have questions about their safety in light of an environmental hazard.”
I hope these thoughts come out coherently. @NewsNation @NewsNationComms @NXSTMediaGroup @fcasseseYO pic.twitter.com/BbS4WpHu4l
— Evan Lambert (@EvanLambertTV) February 15, 2023
Ever since the arrest went viral, Lambert received an outpouring of support from fellow journalists as well as DeWine, who said he had hoped the charges would be dropped.
“Regardless of the intent, arresting a journalist reporting at a press conference is a serious matter,” Yost said in his statement Wednesday. “Ohio protects a free press under its constitution, and state officials should remember to exercise a heightened level of restraint in using arrest powers.”
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