After arresting Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery in Ferguson, Missouri, in August 2014, St. Louis County has formally charged Lowery with "trespassing" and "interfering with a police officer's performance." The journalist has been ordered to appear in court, the paper reported Monday. Lowery, who is a reporter on the Post's national desk, was detained at a local McDonald's while covering the demonstrations that started after a white police officer fatally shot 18-year-old Michael Brown.
An Aug. 6 court summons, which was dated two days before the anniversary of Brown's death, was sent to Lowery, 35, and ordered that he appear before court on Aug. 24 in St. Louis County. The summons arrived on the brink of the one-year statute of limitations expiry of the Aug. 13, 2014 arrest, reported Talking Points Memo.
for what it's worth: @ryanjreilly and I had a bet about whether or not we'd get charged (statute of limitations was a year). Ryan won
— Wesley Lowery (@WesleyLowery) August 10, 2015
Huffington Post reporter Ryan Reilly was also arrested near the protests in Ferguson alongside Lowery. The two reporters claim they were working in the McDonald's when law enforcement officers ordered everyone to vacate the premises. They said they were treated roughly once police realized they were attempting to report the encounter. Reilly told the Washington Post Monday that he had not been sent a summons yet, but a St. Louis County spokesman said that they intend to indict him on the same charges, reported the St. Louis Dispatch.
— Valerie Schremp Hahn (@valeriehahn) August 11, 2015
“Charging a reporter with trespassing and interfering with a police officer when he was just doing his job is outrageous,” Martin Baron, executive editor of the Post, said in a statement Monday. “You’d have thought law enforcement authorities would have come to their senses about this incident. Wes Lowery should never have been arrested in the first place. That was an abuse of police authority."
A conviction on trespassing in St. Louis County can result in a jail sentence of up to one year, a fine up to $1,000, or both according to the Huffington Post.
In a July 15 Huffington Post interview, Lowery said that obstacles he and Reilly have faced in trying to obtain basic information about their cases provide “a window into a larger systemic issue." He said others arrested in Ferguson who don’t have the backing of media legal teams are likely to fare worse in navigating the criminal system. “If the cops won’t give me and Ryan paperwork,” he said, “who knows what they’re giving these people?”