DA drops request for video from protest

DA drops request for video from protest
Officers arrested Ian Van Ornum and two others following a confrontation on May 30. Protestors claimed the police used excessive force, and the EPD opened an internal investigation.

EUGENE, Ore. -- The district attorney withdrew a request for raw footage shot by a Eugene activist and videographer during a protest where a University of Oregon student was subdued with a Taser and two other men were arrested.

Other protesters claim the police acted with excessive force. The district attorney launched a criminal investigaton into the three men arrested during the incident and sought the footage as part of that investigation.

District Attorney Doug Harcleroad wanted to show a grand jury raw video of the protest shot by local activist Tim Lewis. But Lewis -- who posted an edited version of the incident on YouTube -- would't hand over the footage.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a motion to dismiss Harcleroad's request. However, the district attorney's office today withdrew the request for the video, according to the attorney for Lewis. | READ THE MOTION

"As soon as Mr. Lewis made a formal legal objection to the state subpoena of the video, the state formally withdrew the subpoena, and Mr. Lewis withdrew his motion to quash it," Alex Gardner, chief deputy district attorney, wrote in a prepared statement. | READ THE STATEMENT

"Whether Mr. Lewis is eligible to exert the so-called 'media privilege' or not, there is nothing preventing him from voluntarily sharing the full, unadulterated tape, thereby allowing the grand jury, and the public to fully and fairly judge the merit of any allegations that have been made," Gardner wrote.

Lewis said today that now that he is not being compelled to release the video, he might do so.

Lewis resisted the subponea, claiming he is a journalist and that Oregon law protects him from being forced to produce evidence against others.

“While the law was written long before the creation of the internet and YouTube, it is essential that prosecutors and judges recognize that journalists working in these new media are also protected," said ACLU of Oregon Executive Director David Fidanque.  "Protecting the news gathering process is crucial to ensure that the public can be fully informed about current events.”

Harcleroad was not so sure.

"We don't know the facts around whatever he does," Harcleroad said last week. "I don't know whether he's a journalist or not. We haven't actually looked at the law on that in any great detail."

A media law expert said Oregon's shield law is wide-ranging.

"The law says any person connected with a medium of communication, that it can protect its unpublished work," said J. Dominic Monahan, an attorney with Luvass Cobb in Eugene. "Mr. Lewis arguably is a journalist. If he makes the right argument, I think he might be able to defend the retention of those tapes."

Harcleroad said either way, it will be early August before the investigation is complete.

For more on Oregon's shield law for journalists, visit the Open Oregon Web site.

Officers arrested Ian Van Ornum and two others following a confrontation on May 30. Protestors claimed the police used excessive force, and the EPD opened an internal investigation.

That inquiry has been suspended while the district attorney looks into criminal charges. This week, there are two new developments in the possible criminal case.

Three Eugene residents filed a complaint, saying that prosecutors should examine whether the officers who used the Taser should be charged with assault.

"I believe the reason for filing this complaint was that the police conduct was so over the top that it shocks the conscience," said Brian Michaels, the attorney for the complainants. "These officers need to be held accountable."

Harcleroad said the request is nothing new. He said the officers' actions were already being reviewed.

"It's not asking us to do anything that we weren't going to do," he said. "It's a factual incident that we're looking at."