Tuesday, September 25, 2007

News Photographers Face Trial In Toledo For Covering Nazi Rally

According to an article from the National Press Photographers Association today, photojournalists Jeffrey Sauger and Jim West are scheduled to go on trial tomorrow on charges of criminal trespass and failure to disperse following their arrests in December 2005 while covering a Nazi rally in Toledo. The two journalists contend they were standing in a designated "media" area on a public street at the time of their arrest, and Sauger says the City of Toledo has refused to drop the charges unless they sign a waiver absolving the city of any wrongdoing.

"This is about more than the inconveniences Jim West and I have had," Sauger said. "This is about the fact that we are professional photojournalists whose constitutionally guaranteed rights have been trampled on by agencies that exist 'to protect and to serve' the public citizen on the backs of the public citizens' tax dollars. This is about eroding civil rights in a post-9/11 America. This is about not taking the easy way out because this type of case affects the ability of all journalists to do their jobs."

NPPA president Tony Overman says that NPPA has sent a letter to the judge asking that all charges be dismissed, and encourages photojournalists to show up at the courthouse on Wednesday to show their support for Sauger and West.

"The trial will be held before Judge Lynn H. Schaefer. Jury selection will begin Wednesday morning, September 26, in Courtroom 7 of Toledo Municipal Court, 555 North Erie Street in Toledo," Sauger said. "The trial is expected to last two to three days. We're hoping to have fellow photojournalists attend the trial in a show of support."

Sauger, a freelance photojournalist from Royal Oak, MI, and an NPPA member since 1990, told News Photographer magazine shortly after the incident that he was arrested while he was in the “media pit” (an area set aside for journalists) that was within the boundaries of a cordoned off area that police had specifically set up for the rally and counter-protesters.

The photojournalists, including Toledo Journal photographer Jeff Willis, were arrested at the rally “for crossing police lines” according to a story the next day in The Toledo Blade. The day after the rally, the Blade reported that Willis was the first to be arrested, before the rally even started, and then West and Sauger were arrested later.

Willis is not a defendant in tomorrow's trial; charges against him were dismissed. But a source in Toledo who is familiar with the charges said today that they've heard a rumor that the city may try to subpoena Willis to force him to testify in Sauger and West's trial this week.
Image © NPPA

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