Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Ohio State student journalist faces charges for photographing runaway cows; university backs off

UPDATE: Kotran "said he will still retain a lawyer even after an OSU official announced that he will not be charged, and that he has a number of options available to him," Jack Moore of The Lantern reports.

An Ohio State University student journalist is facing legal charges after photographing cows that escaped from OSU's agriculture school, but will likely receive no legal help from the university or newspaper. Alex Kotran, a freshman photographer for the student newspaper The Lantern, was "detained, handcuffed and is facing a misdemeanor charge of criminal trespass," after photographing police's attempt to corral two runaway cows on campus, Byron Edgington reports for The Lantern. Kotran repeatedly explained to officers he was allowed to take pictures because he was standing on public property, but police say he was a safety hazard. (Read more)

Now Kotran says it appears that he's on his own in the legal battle. The Lantern has no money budgeted for legal services for student staff members. Representatives from OSU Legal Affairs told Lantern General Manager John Milliken "the university cannot provide Kotran with an attorney or the money for an attorney because it is a conflict of interest," Michelle Sullivan reports for the newspaper. "I find it odd that the university has the resources to pursue prosecution of a student who hasn’t done anything wrong, but it doesn’t have the resources to help defend a student who hasn’t done anything wrong," Tom O’Hara, The Lantern's adviser, the paper.

Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center, told the Lantern "cases in which university police press charges against student journalists are rare," and "it is fairly uncommon for a university to provide a student journalist with criminal defense counsel," Sullivan writes. He added, "My strong prediction would be that someone higher up in the university will recognize that this was a terrible mistake by the police and work to make it right." (Read more)


Anonymous said...

First, if he was in the line of duty, many states have expense reimbursement statutes for indemnification of costs incurred (reasonably) in performing in the line of foreseeable duty......which seems clear here (see, CA Labor Code Section 2802 as an example). Second, he has press privileges available in many states. Third, he has potential First Amendment violation as the "safety hazard" statute appears void for vagueness. Finally, the University should be ashamed of itself.... As a Illini, shame, shame, shame on OSU....Irrespective of Illini shortcomings, OSU has no excuse except not being able to back up its bravado.....Eat S*%$t OSU

J. Jason Hill

John Flavell said...

Universities and their public policies are a fascination for us all. Professors have academic freedom, university presidents of freedom to control a large amount of the budget, and apparently a lady from the AG department--who doesn't want the department to be embarrassed-- has the power, with the aid of the police, to declare marshal law against one person.

It's in the university's catalogue of Classes called:

Stupidity at Higher Education Institutions and How to Improve the Stupidity at Higher Education Institutions 101.