LOUISIANA — A former Louisiana State University student, who admitted to burning about 1,000 copies of a free campus newspaper, was acquitted of criminal property damage in late May.
By acquitting Joe Alfone of the misdemeanor, state District Judge Bonnie Jackson said the Sept. 25 issue of the Tiger Weekly that was burned did not belong to anybody else but Alfone.
“If somebody throws fliers in somebody’s yard, and that person picks them up and burns them, do they belong to the thrower or to that person picking them up?” Jackson asked.
She then answered her own question by acquitting Alfone.
Editor Wayne Lewis said he distributed about 12,000 copies of the paper around campus for students to take.
“I find that analogy comparing a student newspaper to some fliers very insulting,” Lewis said. “(Alfone) took 1,000 copies of our paper, piled them up and burned them. It violated our free speech.”
Though Alfone was unavailable for comment, he testified that he burned the newspapers in protest to an article that “took him out of context.”
Lewis described the article as a question and answer interview between the reporter and Alfone, a high profile community member.
“He was upset,” Lewis said, “but we just printed what he said.”
LSU campus police originally arrested Alfone on property damage and criminal mischief charges.
But Tarvald Smith, the assistant district attorney prosecuting Alfone, agreed to drop the latter charge.
Smith did not want to comment on the case.
Individuals in Florida, Kentucky and Texas have been successfully prosecuted for taking and/or destroying large quantities of free distribution campus publications.