Prosecutor defends failed effort to convict Iowa journalist
Des Moines Register reporter Andrea Sahouri, facing, hugs her mother, Muna Tareh-Sahouri, after being found not-guilty at the conclusion of her trial at the Drake University Legal Clinic, Wednesday, March 10, 2021, in Des Moines, Iowa. Polk County Attorney John Sarcone, a Democrat who has held office since 1991, dismissed the outrage he has faced over his decision to prosecute Des Moines Register reporter Andrea Sahouri as unwarranted. A Des Moines police officer pepper-sprayed and arrested Sahouri last May while she was on assignment reporting at a chaotic Black Lives Matter protest outside a mall. Sahouri, 25, was charged with disobeying police orders to disperse and interfering with the officer who arrested her. People can’t defy those lawful orders," Sarcone said.
Journalist acquitted in Iowa case seen as attack on press
Des Moines Register reporter Andrea Sahouri, facing, hugs her mother, Muna Tareh-Sahouri, after being found not-guilty at the conclusion of her trial at the Drake University Legal Clinic, Wednesday, March 10, 2021, in Des Moines, Iowa. (Kelsey Kremer/The Des Moines Register via AP, Pool)IOWA CITY, Iowa – An Iowa jury on Wednesday acquitted a journalist who was pepper-sprayed and arrested by police while covering a protest, in a case that critics have derided as an attack on press freedoms and an abuse of prosecutorial discretion. Robnett, 24, said he was sprayed and handcuffed after telling the officer that Sahouri was a Register journalist. Sahouri was the first working U.S. journalist to face a criminal trial since 2018, according to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker. Another Register reporter, Katie Akin, was near Sahouri and quickly informed police that they were journalists.
Arrested journalist pleaded with officer: 'This is my job'
“I said, ‘I’m press, I'm press, I'm press.' Sahouri said the pepper spray was “extremely painful” and made her think she was going to go blind. He said he saw Officer Luke Wilson spray Sahouri from close range, and that he stepped forward to say that Sahouri was a Register reporter. The officer then shot pepper spray at him, knocking him to the ground, before he was handcuffed and jailed, Robnett said. He said that Robnett tried to pull Sahouri out of his grasp, and he deployed more pepper spray that “incapacitated” Robnett.
Officer says he arrested reporter after pepper spray blasts
Police officers are shown arresting Des Moines Register reporter Andrea Sahouri after a Black Lives Matter protest she was covering on May 31, 2020, in Des Moines, Iowa, was dispersed by tear gas. He said he shot more pepper spray when Robnett returned and tried to pull Sahouri out of his custody, hitting them both again from close range. Testimony will show that the pair was arrested 90 minutes later near the same intersection, and that Robnett tried to pull Sahouri away from the officer who arrested them, she said. Then, Wilson shot pepper spray at Robnett after he yelled that she was a journalist. A second Register reporter who was nearby was ordered to leave but not arrested, he said.
Reporter faces trial in case seen as attack on press rights
Police officers are shown arresting Des Moines Register reporter Andrea Sahouri after a Black Lives Matter protest she was covering on May 31, 2020, in Des Moines, Iowa, was dispersed by tear gas. Sahouri is set to stand trial on Monday, March 8, 2021, on misdemeanor charges, a case that prosecutors have pursued despite international condemnation from advocates for press freedom. But Des Moines police and County Attorney John Sarcone's office have not backed down. While 126 journalists were arrested or detained during 2020’s unrest, most either weren’t charged or had charges dropped, the Press Freedom Tracker says. “It’s like somebody with their hand in the cookie jar: They can’t admit that they made a mistake,” said Des Moines civil rights attorney Glen Downey, who is not involved in Sahouri's case.