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Journalist acquitted in Iowa case seen as attack on press

Racial Injustice Reporter's Trial
Posted at 2:26 PM, Mar 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-10 21:39:20-05

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Jurors have acquitted an Iowa journalist who was pepper-sprayed and arrested by police while covering a protest in a case that critics have derided as an attack on press freedom and an abuse of prosecutorial discretion.

A jury found Des Moines Register reporter Andrea Sahouri not guilty on misdemeanor charges of failure to disperse and interference with official acts.

It also acquitted her former boyfriend, Spenser Robnett, of the same charges, which carried the threat of fines and even jail time.

According to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, per The Associated Press, Sahouri was the first working journalist in the United States to face a criminal trial since 2018.

The AP reported that Gannett, which owns the Register, funded Sahouri and Robnett's legal defense.

"Grateful justice was done, and @andreamsahouri was fully exonerated," Gannett news president and USA Today Publisher Maribel Wadsworth said in a tweet. "But it should never have come to this. She was assaulted, arrested, charged, and tried for doing her job. Today’s victory is as much a victory for the 1st Amendment as it is for Andrea. #PressFreedom"

The verdict came after a three-day trial in Des Moines.