Videographer won't share footage with grand jury

Videographer won't share footage with grand jury
Video and still images show Ian Van Ornum on the ground. Police said after the incident that he asked if they wanted poison sprayed in their faces. Friends of Van Ornum dispute that claim.

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) -- A Eugene man says he will defy a court order to provide a grand jury with video he shot during a May 30 anti-pesticide rally.

The rally included the controversial stun-gun arrest of 18-year-old Ian Van Ornum, which some witnesses described as police brutality. The grand jury is deciding whether Van Ornum or anyone else at the rally should be charged with a crime.

The sought-after footage was shot by Tim Lewis, a self-described independent journalist who for years has videotaped police activities for public-access shows.

Lewis said he plans to invoke a journalistic privilege provided under state law that shields reporters from being forced to produce evidence against others.

"I don't have a whole bunch (on the tape) that would interest them, but I can't set a precedent by giving it to them," he said in an interview with The Register-Guard newspaper.

Lewis, 52, said he didn't start recording Van Ornum — who was accused of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest — until after he had been subdued by the stun gun. Scenes of the University of Oregon student laying on the ground while handcuffed are included in footage Lewis has already posted online.

 

The subpoena issued to Lewis orders him to provide the grand jury with both released and unreleased video.

It's unclear if Oregon's shield law applies to independent online reporters. If a judge decides it does not, Lewis could ultimately be jailed for contempt of court.

A San Francisco videographer, Josh Wolf, spent nearly eight months in jail after refusing to surrender footage he shot during a 2005 demonstration. Wolf was released in April 2007 after finally turning over the tape to prosecutors.

Lane County District Attorney Doug Harcleroad declined to comment about the Lewis subpoena.

Back in 1999, Lewis was arrested while videotaping a protest-turned-riot in downtown Eugene. Police seized his tape, and charged him with disorderly conduct and interfering with an officer.

The charges were later dismissed after Harcleroad conceded there were some problems with prosecuting Lewis, according to a Feb. 24, 2000, article in The Register-Guard.

"Mr. Lewis is a reporter, and he was reporting," Harcleroad said at the time.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.