People v. Allen and Darocy
Update: On May 14, the Santa Cruz Superior Court agreed with the ACLU Foundation of Northern California's position and dismissed the charges against both photojournalists.
The ACLU Foundation of Northern California filed an amicus brief asking the Santa Cruz County Superior Court to dismiss felony conspiracy charges against two photojournalists who accompanied a group of activists into a vacant bank building.
The journalists were arrested and charged with conspiracy, as well as trespass and vandalism, after they took and published photographs of the occupation.
The ACLU Foundation of Northern California argues, although reporters and others may not be shielded from civil or criminal liability for their own acts simply because they are engaged in newsgathering activities, the First Amendment does place limits on their liability for the acts of others. Because these journalists are being prosecuted for conduct that occurred while they were gathering and disseminating information about a newsworthy event, the court must take a close look at the evidence against them to make sure that they are not being prosecuted for constitutionally protected conduct.
Even if they are never convicted, forcing reporters to defend themselves at trial against unjustified felony charges can have a serious chilling effect on their willingness to cover controversial events and to express opinions about those events that the government may disagree with.
Ultimately, the court dismissed the changes, citing our brief.