After a three-day trial, a jury took only two hours to find the reporter, Andrea May Sahouri, was not guilty on charges of failure to disperse and interference with official acts. Spenser Robnett, Sahouri’s then-boyfriend, was also acquitted on the same charges.
Police claimed that Sahouri ignored orders and failed to leave the site of a Black Lives Matter protests in Des Moines on May 31, 2020.
Shortly after the verdict, Sahouri tweeted the word “Acquitted” with two photos taken of her during the arrest.
“I’d like to thank my family and friends, my Des Moines Register and Gannett colleagues and people around Des Moines, nationally and globally who have supported me for nearly a year after I was unjustly assaulted and arrested,” Sahouri said in a statement. “I’m thankful to the jury for doing the right thing. Their decision upholds freedom of the press and justice in our democracy.”
Sahouri’s case had alarmed journalists and press freedom advocates who contended the charges should have been dropped and that the case should never have made its way to trial.
“We are grateful that the jury saw this case as the unjust prosecution of a reporter who was doing her job,” Carol Hunter, executive editor of the Des Moines Register, said in a statement. “Newsgathering is a fundamental part of press freedom. Reporters need to be at protests as the public’s eyes and ears, to conduct interviews, take photos and witness for themselves the actions of protesters and law enforcement.”
“It was clear that police were allowing other journalists to do exactly what Andrea was doing that day — reporting from a breaking news scene,” Wadsworth said. “Andrea was assaulted, arrested, charged and ultimately tried for doing her job. Today’s victory was as much a victory for the First Amendment as it was for Andrea.”