Charges dropped against California college newspaper photographer

The Butte CountyDistrict Attorney decided Sept. 17 not to pursue charges against a Chico StateUniversity student journalist for obstruction of a police officer.

MishaOsinovskiy, a photographer with the school’s student newspaper, TheOrion, was arrested while photographing an undercover Alcoholic BeverageControl officer during a police crackdown of underage drinking and publicintoxication near campus Labor Day weekend.

Liquor control officer JerryBerenger took Osinovskiy into custody after he claimed six camera flashes”blinded him,” and interfered with an ensuing citation, said Mike Ramsey, ButteCounty District Attorney.

The Orion staff has record of only twonegatives relating to the citation Osinovskiy photographed. But afterinvestigators examined his camera, a feature was discovered that could havecaused the extra flashes, Ramsey said.

“In his [Osinovskiy] mind, hethought he had only taken two pictures and in fact it flashed six times,” Ramseyclaimed.

“We made a decision [not to prosecute] after looking at all thefacts surrounding the incident from both Mr. Osinovskiy and the [liquor control]officer,” Ramsey said, “and it was determined that everyone saw the same thing,but had entirely different perspectives of the situation.”

Osinovskiy’sattorney, Robert L. Marshall, said the photographer made no deliberate attemptto interfere.

“I understand Mr. Ramsey’s reason [for dropping the case],”Marshall said. “I think that he was attempting to avoid dealing with any FirstAmendment issues. “I think Misha is disappointed it went as far as it did. For ayoung journalist, standing up to a situation like this and holding his groundshould earn him a badge of honor.”

Marshall plans to file a motion inupcoming weeks to expunge the arrest from Osinovskiy’s record.

SPLC View:News photographers do not have a right to interfere with police investigationsor action, but they do have the right to cover the news in a public place from areasonable distance without having to fear arrest from law enforcementofficials. From what we understand, that’s exactly what Osinovskiy wasdoing for his student newspaper.