PENNSYLVANIA — The case of a Pennsylvania State Universitystudent photographer is headed for a trial after a district judge threw out allbut one of the charges.
Penn State junior Michael Felletter is charged with failing to dispersewhen he was taking photos for The Daily Collegian on the scene of a riotthat broke out near campus in State College, Pa., after a football game lastOctober. Police said Felletter did not leave the area when asked repeatedly,though Felletter maintains that he did leave.
District Judge Carmine Prestia dismissed four of Felletter’s fivecounts of failure to disperse, plus the one count of disorderly conduct.
“The media has no greater right to the scene than the general public,”Prestia said at the preliminary court date on March 4, according to a story inthe Collegian.
Felletter’s original charges were dropped on Jan. 21 when thecharging detective did not show up for the scheduled court date, but DistrictAttorney Michael Madiera re-filed identical charges a week later. Madiera haspreviously said he does not consider the charges a First Amendment issue. He didnot return calls for comment.
Attorney Andy Shubin, who is representing Felletter on behalf of theAmerican Civil Liberties Union, said the case is undeniably a First Amendmentissue because Felletter was singled out of the unruly crowd.
“Kids with cell phones who were taking pictures were not targeted. Myclient was targeted because he had a fancy camera and looked like a photographerfor the media,” Shubin said.
He said that instead of being targeted for “responsibly doing hisjob,” Felletter should receive special consideration because of his roleas a photojournalist.
“I also think that the law provides for special access and specialrights for members of the media because of the importance of getting thatinformation out to the public,” Shubin said.
Police detectives used some of the photos Felletter took for theCollegian to identify and charge other students involved in theriot.
Shubin said Felletter is anxious to have a trial because of the importantfree-press questions involved. He expects the trial will begin in fewmonths.
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