Charges against reporter arrested at East Palestine news conference are dropped
The criminal charges that were brought against a national television reporter who was arrested at a press conference in East Palestine earlier this month have been dismissed.
Attorney General Dave Yost dismissed criminal charges filed against NewsNation reporter Evan Lambert, saying in a statement there wasn't evidence to support them. He addedt: "While journalists could conceivably be subject to criminal charges for trespassing in some situations, this incident is not one of them. 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.”
Gov. Mike DeWine has said all along that he didn't see any reason why Lambert should have been arrested in the first place. DeWine said he doesn’t think this incident, which was widely publicized nationally, will tarnish the state’s image.
“It was a mistake to stop the reporter. What happened after that is what happened. But no, I don’t think there’s any lasting repercussions from it," DeWine said.
A report from the East Palestine Police Department said Lambert was arrested after an argument with Adjutant General Major General John Harris Jr., who had taken issue with Lambert for "being too loud" while doing a live shot in the back of the gymnasium where the news conference was held. Harris said he felt the reporter was coming after him in an "aggressive" manner. That was the point that local authorities asked Lambert to leave and when he didn't, they arrested him.
The incident, which was caught on a state trooper's body camera and also videotaped by other reporters from several angles, showed Lambert being thrown to the ground, handcuffed and taken to jail. DeWine said he has talked to Harris about the incident and that he "regrets the whole situation."
Immediately following the arrest, Society of Professional Journalists National President Claire Regan and SPJ Vice-President Ashanti Blaize Hopkins said, “Journalism is not a crime and we urge East Palestine PD to drop all charges against Mr. Lambert immediately and issue a public apology for his arrest.”
After news that the charges were dropped, Lambert tweeted his thanks to Yost and DeWine.
"I'm still processing what was a traumatic event for me, in the context of a time when we are hyper aware of how frequently some police interactions with people of color can end in much worse circumstances. That is not lost on me," Lambert said in his tweet.
Lambert said he hopes what happened to him will "shine further attention on the people of East Palestine, who rightly have questions about their safety in light of an environmental hazard."