Charges Against Reporter Arrested at East Palestine News Conference Are Dismissed

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

click to enlarge Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost - Photo: Official Portrait
Photo: Official Portrait
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced Feb. 15 that the criminal charges filed against NewsNation reporter Evan Lambert after he was arrested during a news conference in East Palestine have been dismissed.

The Ohio Attorney General’s Special Prosecutions Section was appointed by the Columbiana County Prosecuting Attorney to handle the charges filed in Columbiana County Municipal Court, a news release from Yost said.

“My office has reviewed the relevant video and documentary evidence, and is dismissing the charges against Evan Lambert as unsupported by sufficient evidence,” Yost said in a statement in the release.

Lambert was charged with resisting arrest, a second-degree misdemeanor, and criminal trespass, a fourth-degree misdemeanor. Lambert’s arrest Feb. 8 in East Palestine came as he was doing a live shot when Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s news conference on the Norfolk Southern train derailment began.

Video of the arrest showed that during a verbal confrontation involving Ohio National Guard Adjutant Gen. John C. Harris, Jr., Harris put his hands on Lambert’s chest at which point members of the Ohio State Highway Patrol intervened and separated Harris from Lambert. The confrontation then escalated with other officers pulling Lambert out of the gymnasium where the news conference was taking place and then tackling him to the ground and arresting him.

The arrest led to national news and public outcry.

“While journalists could conceivably be subject to criminal charges for trespassing in some situations, this incident is not one of them,” Yost said. “The reporter was lawfully present at a press conference called by the Governor of the state. His conduct was consistent with the purpose of the event and his role as a reporter."

Yost added that tensions were running high in the days following the derailment 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.”

This article was originally published by the Ohio Capital Journal and is republished here with permission.

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