PENNSYLVANIA — A photographer for the Pennsylvania StateUniversity Daily Collegian has been ordered to appear in court Dec. 10 toface misdemeanor charges after covering a riot in downtown University Park, Pa.,*in October.
The photographer, Michael Felletter, a 20-year-old junior at Penn State,was charged with one count of failure to disperse and one count of disorderlyconduct as he was covering the Oct. 25 riot, which followed a Penn Statefootball victory against Ohio State.
Collegian Editor in Chief Terry Casey said that Felletter had beenasked to cover the riot by the paper’s photo editor. As the police movedin to stop the riot, Felletter identified himself as a member of the press and apolice officer allowed him to remain in the area.
According to a Collegian article, State College police officer NickArgiro said in the criminal complaint that he told Felletter to leave the areatwice and that he failed to do so. When Argiro saw Felletter a third time, hetook his driver’s license.
Felletter said in the Collegian article that he was only asked toleave the scene of the riot once by Argiro. He said Argiro threatened him withpepper spray and arrest, and when he continued to take pictures of Argiro overhis shoulder as he left, the officer demanded his license. He denies policecharges that he refused to leave when told and that he incited the crowd tobecome more destructive.
“I never obstructed the police in any way, nor did I make any act toescalate the situation further,” said Felletter in an e-mail. “Iwas there to do my job, nothing more.”
Casey said that Felletter did not do anything wrong by covering theriot.
“He did have a right to be there covering the event, and when he wasasked to leave he did cooperate,” said Casey. “So the only thing hedid that sort of ticked off police, it sounds like, is to take photos as hewalked away.”
State College Police Capt. Dana Leonard could not comment onFelletter’s case specifically, but said his charges are common for peopleat the scene of a riot.
“The specific charge of failure to disperse means there’s adisorder in the vicinity, and the police, in order to restore order, orderpeople to disperse,” Leonard said. “They’re ordered todisperse, and if they fail to do so, they can be charged with themisdemeanor.”
Casey said that following the riot, police officers approached bothFelletter and the Collegian to obtain unpublished photos in order toidentify riot participants. Both students told the police that it was againstthe Collegian‘s policy to turn over photos that had not beenpublished, and the police did not press the issue.
Casey said that Felletter will remain on the staff of the DailyCollegian.
“We are supporting our photographer,” he said.
CORRECTION, 11/20: An earlier version of this article said Penn State was in State College, Pa. The SPLC regrets the error. Return to story