Prosecutor could drop disorderly conduct charge against CUNY student journalist following protest arrest

NEW YORK — A disorderly conduct charge against a student journalist, who was arrested while covering a protest over the non-indictment of police officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Eric Gardner, could be dropped if she does not get in trouble again before July.

Desiree Mathurin, a City University of New York graduate student, was photographing the protest for “a simple extra credit assignment” when she was arrested on Dec. 3, 2014, according to a story she wrote in December for The New York Daily News. Sophia Mason, a spokeswoman for the New York City Police Department, said in December that Mathurin was one of 83 people arrested at the rally.

Benjamin Voce-Gardner, Mathurin’s attorney, said the prosecutor decided to tentatively dismiss charges against Mathurin and others without hearing arguments from the defense, which Voce-Gardner called “good prosecutorial discretion.”

“I understand that they mass arrested people that night,” he said. “I think the DA’s office probably picked up on that and also probably concluded that it was politically problematic to go forward with these charges.”

While a spokeswoman at the attorney’s office said Mathurin’s case is still open, Voce-Gardner said the charge against Mathurin will be dismissed six months after her Jan. 26 court date “as long as there’s no misconduct.”

Mathurin said in December that she was arrested when the protesters she was photographing sat down in the Brooklyn Bridge roadway, obstructing traffic. Voce-Gardner said that many of those arrested during the protest were granted resolutions similar to Mathurin’s.

On Jan. 26, “literally dozens of people” approached the court with similar circumstances and outcomes, Voce-Gardner said.

“I’m going to assume that the DA’s office did a review of these cases and concluded that either they couldn’t successfully prosecute them or they weren’t worth prosecuting,” he said.

While he declined to comment on any further legal action Mathurin may take, Voce-Gardner said Mathurin was “pleased with the outcome” and that he hopes for greater respect of the press in future protests.

“I think the police need to be protective of a journalist’s right to report on matters such as these,” he said. “I’m hopeful that going forward they will be more conscious of when the press is simply covering an event and be more respectful of that.”

Contact SPLC staff writer Elaina Koros by email or at (202) 974-6318.