Saturday, September 20, 2008
Charges dropped against Kauai reporter
by Larry Geller
Kauai isn’t St. Paul, but independent journalists seem to be as endangered there as the species is on the Mainland.
Reporter Joan Conrow learned on Friday that a warrant had been issued for her arrest. She was being charged, along with three other persons, with trespassing related to a protest against burial desecration on August 7 at Naue. Joan covered the story for the Honolulu Weekly (see Unearthing burial laws) and for her blog.
Reporters were also present from the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and The Garden Island, but were not similarly charged.
Joan contacted civil rights attorney Dan Hempey, who assisted her in fighting the charge.
Unlike St. Paul police, Kauai police chief Darryl Perry understood that journalists have rights under the law, and after review, he requested that the prosecutor drop the charges:
Based on her credentials as a media representative; her complicity in the alleged trespassing charge is in doubt as she is covered by both State of Hawaii, and U.S. Constitutional Bill of Rights under the First Amendment with respect to Freedom of the Press to report relevant public issues.
Absent exigent circumstances, in this instant matter the applicability of Criminal Trespass in the 2nd degree, HRS, Section 708-814 did not raise to the level that out weighed her Rights to be present at or on the Brescia property located at 7342 Alealea Road, Haena. [from Joan’s article Off the Hook, 9/19/2008]
As Hempey observed, charges would have to be dropped, because if it went before a judge,
. . . we’d be looking at a trial where the Chief of Police would be the first witness for the defense.
Readers on the Mainland may find this to be odd and perhaps refreshing police behavior. It must be as hard for them to understand as it is for us when we read about police brutality against journalists on the Mainland.
While this was undoubtedly traumatic for Joan, it demonstrated that Kauai has certain qualities to it that deserve preservation.
wow - a defense lawyer calling the police chief and the two men discussing it and working it out civilly, without ruing the defendant's life or spending tens of thousands of tax dollars on a trial - that actually is refreshing. It speaks well about the chief.
Go free press! We need free press. But while the Chief nipped this in the bud (and hopefully Joan didn't incur too many legal costs) it still should have never happened and the person who decided to single out just one journalist when several others were there too - needs to have his/her access to power reevaluated.