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All charges dismissed against Penn State photographer

July 27, 2009

PENNSYLVANIA — A photographer at Pennsylvania State University’s Daily Collegian was cleared of his remaining failure to disperse charge July 22 in a pre-trial motion after he was arrested last fall while covering a post-football-game riot.

“The Court does not believe that Defendant refused to or knowingly failed to obey dispersal orders,” stated President Judge David E. Grine in his order to grant Michael Felletter’s dismissal. “The Court believes that the arrest of Defendant was made in good faith by an officer who believed that he was doing what was necessary to keep the peace.”

In October 2008, Felletter was charged with several misdemeanors after he covered a riot on campus, during which police accused him of inciting the crowd by taking pictures of the participants. On March 4, a judge threw out Felletter’s disorderly conduct charge and four of his five failure to disperse charges.

“The testimony by Officer Argiro and Officer Pieniezek made it clear that rioters were becoming more disorderly around Defendant’s camera,” Grine stated. “That, however, is not Defendant’s fault, and is the responsibility of those who were at the riot and actually acting disorderly.”

During the riot, police asked Felletter to leave, at which point he identified himself as a journalist. Police still asked him to leave several times throughout the evening, threatened him with pepper spray, and eventually took his license and informed him he was under arrest.

Felletter’s attorney, Andrew Shubin, said he is extremely pleased with the results of the case but that because the charge was dismissed without a jury, Felletter could be re-arrested or the case could be appealed — both of which he says Centre County District Attorney Michael T. Madeira has threatened to do in the press.

By Catherine MacDonald, SPLC staff writer

© 2009 Student Press Law Center