NEW YORK, N.Y. — Charges have been dropped against Douglas Higginbotham, a New York City freelance photojournalist who challenged his arrest during the Occupy Wall Street protests with help from The Deadline Club and the Society of Professional Journalists. On Friday, the court dismissed the disorderly conduct charge, which was the only one against him, “in the interest of justice,” says Mickey H. Osterreicher, general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association, who filed a motion to dismiss the case.
Higginbotham was arrested after he stood on top of a phone booth to get a better vantage point while covering the clearing of protesters from Zuccotti Park. When police ordered him down, Higginbotham tried to comply. Before he could do so, NYPD officers pulled him from his perch and arrested him on a disorderly conduct charge. That has been hanging over his head for months, in no small part, because his original court date was delayed.
“We’re proud to have helped Doug through this ordeal,” says J. Alex Tarquinio, president of The Deadline Club, which is the New York City Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Higginbotham contacted the club after his arrest in November because he did not have a local media company to represent him. At the time of his arrest, he was on assignment for Television New Zealand.
SPJ President John Ensslin says “this is a clear win in an important case,” and a good use of the Society’s Legal Defense Fund. The primary role of the Legal Defense Fund is to initiate and support litigation that enforces public access to government records and proceedings, which can be the most expensive way to defend the First Amendment. The fund also provides legal aid grants to journalists who are arrested while doing their jobs.
To learn more about Higginbotham’s case, read our earlier statement HERE. You can watch a video of his arrest. You may read the Society’s statement. The National Press Photographers Association maintains an advocacy blog, including this case.
If you have been arrested while on assignment, or feel that the police hindered your reporting in any way, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. If your request is an emergency, call SPJ national headquarters at (317) 927-8000. Be prepared to fax or email documentation about your legal matter. Keep us in the loop. The Deadline Club can support your request for legal aid if the incident occurred in New York.