North Dakota State Attorney Ladd Erickson has vowed to continue pursuing Goodman despite having failed to successfully charge her twice.
The war on journalism seems to be reaching full-tilt as confidence in the corporate media continues to plunge. With RT’s bank accounts frozen and Wikileaks under attack, independent journalists in the US are now being targeted, especially those that “dare” to cover protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Amy Goodman, host and executive producer of Democracy Now, was charged with criminal trespassing five days after she reported on a clash between protestors and Dakota Access private security that turned violent when the security officers used dogs and pepper spray to disperse the crowd. Her video ultimately went viral, receiving 14 million views on Facebook alone. Though the trespassing charges were dropped, McLean County State’s Attorney Ladd Erickson decided to charge Goodman with participating in a riot. Erickson argued that Goodman, who identified herself as a reporter in the video several times, was not a reporter but “a protestor, basically” and therefore did not merit First Amendment press protections.
At a hearing this past Monday in Mandan, North Dakota, Judge John Grinsteiner ruled that there was no probable cause to support the allegations of Goodman’s participation in a riot, leading him to dismiss the case entirely. The move was hailed as a “press freedom victory” as Goodman had previously said that the charges against her were “simply a threat to all journalists around the country: Do not come to North Dakota.” This indeed seems to be the case as documentary filmmaker Deia Schlosberg was arrested while filming demonstrators and is facing up to 45 years in prison just for doing her job, leading other journalists and filmmakers to comment on “a worrisome, growing pattern.”
However, the dropped charges have not stopped Erickson from targeting Goodman. Having failed twice to successfully criminalize Goodman’s journalism, Erickson told the New York Times:
“I believe [the Morton County state’s attorney’s office] want to keep the investigation open and see if there is any evidence in the unedited and unpublished videos that we could better detail in an affidavit for the judge. The Democracy Now video that many people have seen doesn’t have much evidence value in it.”
Goodman’s attorney, Reed Brody, commented that Erickson “seems to be determined to charge Amy with something” and suggested that the prosecutor could attempt to file a charge for disturbing the peace or something similar. It appears that Erickson is seeking to obtain the unedited footage used to make the viral video, which Goodman’s legal team said he could only obtain via a court subpoena. However, the State of North Dakota stands to gain little in its continual attempts to criminalize journalists documenting protests against the controversial pipeline. If anything, these attempts to limit journalists and citizens alike will only backfire, keeping the Dakota Access pipeline in the headlines for weeks to come.
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