SANTA CRUZ, CA: District Attorney Bob Lee has embarked on a full frontal assault against independent media in Santa Cruz by including four regular contributors to the independent news website Indybay.org amongst the eleven people charged with multiple felonies and misdemeanors after the occupation of a vacant bank building on November 30th, 2011. District Attorney Lee apparently believes it is his duty to dictate how events such as the occupation of the vacant bank at 75 River Street should be reported on by the media, and if he does not approve of the coverage, then journalists risk the DA bringing charges against them.|
Bradley Stuart Allen and Alex Darocy are Indybay photojournalists and Indybay editors who were reporting on the occupation. No charges nor arrests were made at the time, but warrants were issued over two months later on February 8th, 2012, for Bradley, Alex, and nine other individuals. Alex was arrested at his home before he could submit to the surprise warrant. Bradley and Alex were originally charged with felony vandalism, felony conspiracy, and two counts of misdemeanor trespass, but after a three-day preliminary hearing starting March 13th the felony vandalism charge against both was dropped. Alex and Bradley remain out of police custody on their own recognizance. [...]
Conspiracy to Make MediaAs for the most serious remaining charge, felony conspiracy, District Attorney Lee has offered absolutely no supporting evidence of a criminal collusion. The DA has not argued that Alex and Bradley had prior knowledge that the building would be occupied. The DA simply asserts that the mere act of newsgathering at an announced demonstration, which turned into an unannounced building occupation, constitutes felony conspiracy to promote trespass and vandalism. In the same preliminary hearing supplemental brief referenced above, the DA wrote: "The defendants' presence and postings... aided and abetted the organization's occupation of the property." From this, District Attorney Lee takes another leap by claiming that Bradley and Alex "effectively serv[ed] as the media arm of the organization; the group's propagandists." The "conspiracy" is nothing more than reporting on a newsworthy event.