DA drops charges against Jordan Neely protesters, but not against journalist photographing them
July 3, 2023 | Source: Monroe Gallery of Photography
Update - Watch a conversation with Stephanie Keith and Ryan vVzzions here.
A veteran news photographer is blasting Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg for failing dismiss her disorderly conduct summons, even though prosecutors have dropped all misdemeanor charges against the protesters she was photographing.
“It feels really unfair because I’m not an activist. I’m a journalist and I should be protected by the Constitution,” said Stephanie Keith, who was arrested on May 8 while she attempted to take pictures of demonstrators protesting the chokehold death of troubled subway rider Jordan Neely. “Every other case was dismissed except mine.”
The Manhattan DA’s Office declined to comment on whether prosecutors believe Keith was lawfully arrested, but did refer the I-Team to an email written to the photojournalist’s attorney. That email references a hands-off policy prosecutors began following five years ago when violations of law are charged using a written summons as opposed to a criminal complaint or Desk Appearance Ticket.
“As of 2018 the Office has ended the practice of taking a position on summons matters as they are best handled by a judge or judicial hearing officer, so that the limited prosecutorial resources were not expended on minor offenses,” the email read. It goes on to say moving to dismiss the photographer’s charge would be unfair to other defendants who are charged via summons.
Keith’s civil rights attorney, Wylie Stecklow, said he believes DA Bragg not only has the right but the obligation to intervene in the photographer’s case. He said Cy Vance, the former Manhattan DA, did intervene to dismiss summonses issued to journalists during the Occupy Wall Street protests.
“Alvin Bragg has every legal authority to dismiss this summons,” Stecklow said. “I think he’s making a mistake here and I hope he’s going to correct it.
The NYPD did not immediately respond to the I-Team’s request for comment.
Video of the May 8 protest shows Stephanie Keith’s arrest was ordered by Chief John Chell, the NYPD’s Chief of Patrol and one of the department’s highest ranking uniformed officers. Chell did not respond to the I-Team’s request for comment, but in the hours after Keith was arrested, Chell told reporters the journalist was detained and charged because she allegedly interfered with three arrests.
Stecklow say the many angles of video taken that day prove Chell’s statement to be a falsehood, and he said the Citizen’s Complaint Review Board is now investigating Chell’s conduct related to the photographer’s arrest.
“I believe it is the rank of Chief John Chell that is impacting decisions here concerning her prosecution,” Stecklow said.