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Collegian photographer cleared of riot charges

Sara Ganim – sganim@centredaily.com
Thursday, Jul. 23, 2009
A Daily Collegian photographer charged with inciting revelers during the October downtown State College riot has been cleared of any wrongdoing by a judge.

Michael Felletter had fought the two misdemeanor charges — filed by police who said his pictures were making the crowd act more rowdy and that he did not leave the scene when police ordered — on First Amendment grounds.

“In the U.S., we don’t arrest the press for covering major events and protests,” said Felletter’s attorney, Andy Shubin, who called the case “doomed from the beginning.”

The riot happened Oct. 25 after the football team defeated Ohio State. Thousands of people converged on the 300 block of East Beaver Avenue, an area known as Beaver Canyon, and damaged light poles, road signs, shrubbery and other items. Hundreds of people were pepper-sprayed after ignoring orders to leave.

President Judge David E. Grine dismissed both misdemeanors Wednesday.

“He’s very happy,” Shubin said of Felletter. “He felt very strongly on the issues. The commonwealth should never have brought this case in the first place. It makes no sense to me.”

Shubin said Grine indicated Felletter shouldn’t be held responsible for the actions of others in the crowd.

“He acted responsibly,” Shubin said, noting that police later used photos Felletter had taken in their investigation of the riot. “It’s a good day for the photographer and for the press.”

District Attorney Michael Madeira said he is reviewing Grine’s decision and will decide if it’s appropriate to appeal it or refile charges.

He has argued from the beginning that Felletter had no more of a right to be there than any other of the revelers.

Shubin said Madeira needs to “reread his copy of the Constitution.”

 

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