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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Charges dismissed for reporter arrested at Ohio derailment news event

In this police bodycam footage provided by Ohio State Highway Patrol, NewsNation correspondent Evan Lambert, center, interacts with the leader of the Ohio National Guard in the gymnasium of an elementary school in East Palestine, Ohio, on Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2023.

By Christine Hauser

Charges have been dismissed against a reporter who was arrested last week while covering a news conference on the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, Dave Yost, the Ohio attorney general said in a statement earlier this week.

On Feb. 8, the reporter, Evan Lambert, had been waiting for the news conference about the status of the derailment, about 50 miles northwest of Pittsburgh, to start at 3 p.m. But the event was delayed for two hours, clashing with his scheduled live shot for NewsNation, the cable channel where he works.

Lambert filmed his live shot around 5 p.m. — away from the lectern for officials that was set up in a school gymnasium — and reported the news quietly, Mike Viqueira, the Washington bureau chief of NewsNation, said in an interview last week.

As Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, shared an update that residents of East Palestine would be allowed to return home, local law enforcement officials told Lambert that he was “out of line for talking when the governor was talking,” Viqueira said. Lambert was arrested.

During the arrest, Lambert is heard saying “I’m doing my job,” in a video from WKYC Studios, a television station. He told the four officers not to touch him as they surrounded him. Then, the officers and Lambert moved to a hallway, where two officers put Lambert on the ground on his stomach, video of the encounter showed.

Yost said Wednesday that his office had reviewed video and documentary evidence and that the charges of resisting arrest, a second-degree misdemeanor, and criminal trespass, a fourth-degree misdemeanor, were “unsupported by sufficient evidence.”

NewsNation said Lambert had been released from jail the same night.

“While journalists could conceivably be subject to criminal charges for trespassing in some situations, this incident is not one of them,” Yost said.

He also said that tensions were running high in the days after the derailment on Feb. 3 and that local officials “appeared to be following the lead of the National Guard.”

“Regardless of the intent, arresting a journalist reporting at a press conference is a serious matter,” Yost said. “Ohio protects a free press under its constitution, and state officials should remember to exercise a heightened level of restraint in using arrest powers.”

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