Arrested at Ferguson Protest, L.A. Journalist's Case Is Dropped
Ryan Orange/L.A. Weekly
Jasmyne Cannick says she was cornered with nowhere to go when police ordered demonstrators to disperse on that November 2014 night near Staples Center.
Protesters were angry about police violence against unarmed black men, particularly how it manifested in Ferguson, Missouri, where teen Michael Brown was shot by a cop. The Black Lives Matter movement, born partially in Los Angeles, was gaining momentum.
Cannick, an African-American journalist, blogger, political operative and publicist for the LAX police union, says she was there to observe and report.
But as cops in riot gear moved in, Cannick was arrested. She was later charged with three counts of resisting police, she said. Although these are misdemeanor allegations, this was a criminal case, her attorney, Nana Gyamfi, said.
"They threw the book at her," she said.
About 130 people were arrested that night; only 27 cases ended up in court, where suspects were prosecuted to the fullest with criminal allegations instead of customary infractions, Gyamfi alleged.
Cannick maintained her innocence for a year and refused to take a deal, she said.
She had been critical of the Los Angeles Police Department, and she helped to break embarrassing stories about the LAPD's purchase of a $6,000 quarterhorse from Chief Charlie Beck's daughter and about former Det. Frank Lyga's racially insensitive comments during a training session. (He apparently retired quietly as the department moved to fire him.)
You can see where this is going.
"I think it was retaliation for my criticism of Chief Beck and other members of command staff," she told us.
Yesterday the City Attorney's Office moved to have the case dismissed "in the interest of justice," and the judge granted the motion, Cannick said.
"In further preparation for trial, we carefully assessed all the evidence including witnesses and prospective witnesses for both sides as well as the specific elements of the charges and defendant's criminal history [or lack thereof]," said City Attorney's spokesman Rob Wilcox. "For all those reasons, there was insufficient evidence to sustain a conviction."
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We reached out to an LAPD official with an offer to let the department weigh in. He didn't get back to us.
Attorney Gyamfi says the issue of prejudice — a legal term determining whether or not a case can be refiled later — didn't come up but that, legally speaking, charges shouldn't be refiled unless there was "new and fantastical information" about her client's behavior that night.
Cannick's team was ready. Its witness list included Beck himself, members of his command staff, undercover cops who were at the protest, and one of City Hall's highest-ranking African-American politicians, Gyamfi said.
Here's a narrative of what happened downtown on Nov. 26, 2014, according to a statement issued by Cannick:
A police report claimed that LAPD Sergeant Raul Pedroza identified Ms. Cannick as someone he recognized from television and that she was one of the “leaders” of the protest and allegedly attempted to cross a skirmish line while saying, “We’re coming through!” During six months of pretrial hearing, neither the city attorney’s office nor the LAPD ever produced one photo or video of Ms. Cannick engaging in any illegal activity. A YouTube video posted shows Ms. Cannick being arrested without incident.
While she "identified herself as a journalist at the time of her arrest and told officers that she was not a part of the protest but was there covering it for a local radio station where she freelances as a segment producer," Cannick still was handcuffed, the statement said.
"While other news media personnel were not arrested and allowed to leave, Ms. Cannick was not," it said.
Cannick accused police of straight-up lying in this case.
"While I was prepared to take this case to trial in an effort to prove my innocence, I am relived by the dismissal," she said. "This case was about retaliation — retaliation for stories that I’ve broken about the LAPD that have turned into major news stories ... ."
"I think the powers that be were attempting to use the City Attorney’s office to exact revenge on me. With that said, as long as my free time permits, I look forward to continuing to write, expose and talk about the issues that people care about when it comes to law enforcement — the good, the bad and the ugly."
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