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2008-09-04

Amy Goodman Questions Ramsey County Prosecutors on Jailing, Charges of Journalists

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Two days after several journalists were arrested covering the RNC protests, including three staffers at Democracy Now!, county and city prosecutors held a press conference in St. Paul. Amy Goodman was there to question them about the crackdown on journalists. [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN:

Over the past few days of the Republican convention, some 300 people have been arrested on the streets of St. Paul, the vast majority of them swept up Monday afternoon in a police crackdown on protesters on Labor Day. Many of those detained remained in jail for thirty-six hours before being released.

Among those arrested, several journalists covering the protests in the streets, including an AP photographer and three of us at Democracy Now! I was arrested along with my colleagues, Democracy Now! producers Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar. We were all released on Monday evening. Two journalists with Pepperspray Productions, Joseph La Sac and Lambert Rochfort, remained in prison for two days before being released last night. Sharif and Nicole still face pending felony PC riot charges, that’s “probable cause riot.” I was charged with misdemeanor obstruction of legal process and interference with a, quote, “peace officer.”

Well, on Wednesday afternoon, Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner and the city attorney, John Choi, held a news conference here in St. Paul. After our broadcast, I went over with Nicole Salazar to the news conference and asked about our charges.

    AMY GOODMAN:

    I’m Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! host. I was charged on Monday, Jackson and 7th. My colleagues Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar were arrested. The police told me that they were facing PC felony charges. Though they weren’t charged, I was, and I’m wondering if you’re dropping the charges against me. I had come up to the police line simply to ask for the release of my colleagues, fellow reporters, fully accredited. We had all our accreditation very visible around our neck. Will you be dropping the charges against me?

    JOHN CHOI: Miss Goodman, this is what I can tell you. Your court date — and you probably know this, because I don’t know when your court date is, but I believe your citation would identify a court date that you will appear sometime in the future, correct?

    AMY GOODMAN:

    They did not give me a court date. They said it would be sent to me.

    JOHN CHOI: You will have a court date at some moment in time. And when you appear, you will know or find out what our charging decision is, and we haven’t made that yet. Essentially, you’ve been cited for a misdemeanor crime, and we’ll make that charging decision at a later time.

    But I can assure you this, is that, you know, when prosecutors make decisions, we have ethical obligations to look at all the facts and circumstances. And we review the case very seriously, and we want — we’ll take a look at it. And we won’t proceed on the prosecution unless we believe there’s — unless there’s probable cause to proceed. That’s ultimately what our ethical standard is, and we’ll — we’ll follow that.

    AMY GOODMAN:

    I just want to do a follow-up on that. I want to do a follow-up on the question of the reporters, and that is, will you be investigating the officers that led to the injury of the two reporters, Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar? Just let me finish that question. I think I’m entitled as one of the arrested reporters. Will you be investigating the officers, as well?

    UNIDENTIFIED: Miss Goodman, we did give you your opportunity to ask your question.

    AMY GOODMAN:

    I have a two-part question.

    UNIDENTIFIED: And we’re going to pass along now.

    AMY GOODMAN:

    I asked the reporter to let him follow up on that. We’re entitled to a follow-up.

    MICHAEL ISIKOFF: I’d say she could get a follow-up to the question. It seems a reasonable question. In fact, I have the same question, so…

    JOHN CHOI: The appropriate course of action, I believe, for you, Miss Goodman, if you believe that you were not treated fairly is to file an internal affairs complaint with the St. Paul Police Department. That’s what we tell everybody.

    AMY GOODMAN:

    Right now, the I-Witness collective is being raided just down the street, the I-Witness Video collective. Do you have information on this? This is the second time. Saturday was the first. Now they’re being forced out of their building right now, the I-Witness Video collective.

    JOHN CHOI: No, I don’t.

AMY GOODMAN:

That was St. Paul city attorney John Choi standing with the county attorney, Susan Gaertner, answering questions at a news conference yesterday. The reporter backed up — who backed up my request for a follow-up was Michael Isikoff at Newsweek.

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