An Iowa jury acquitted a journalist on Wednesday in a highly unusual trial of a reporter who was arrested last spring as she covered a protest against racism and police violence.
Andrea Sahouri, a public safety reporter for The Des Moines Register, was arrested May 31 while covering a sometimes chaotic demonstration near the Merle Hay mall in downtown Des Moines. Police ordered protesters to disperse and used pepper spray against them. Ms. Sahouri, who said she identified herself as a reporter, was arrested along with her then-boyfriend, Spenser Robnett, who had accompanied her that day.
Ms. Sahouri, 25, pleaded not guilty to the misdemeanor charges of failing to disperse and interference with official acts, each punishable by up to 30 days in jail. On Wednesday, a six-person jury found Ms. Sahouri and Mr. Robnett not guilty of both charges.
“I’m thankful to the jury for doing the right thing,” Ms. Sahouri said in a statement after the verdict. “Their decision upholds freedom of the press and justice in our democracy.”
part of a nationwide movement that sprang up after the death of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed last May while in police custody in Minneapolis.
The Register decried the charges against Ms. Sahouri as “a violation of free press rights and a miscarriage of justice.”
The trial, which took place at the Drake University Legal Clinic in Iowa City, started on Monday, with Judge Lawrence P. McLellan presiding. It was also live-streamed.