$700,000 Settlement With LAist Reporter Includes Re-Training Of LA Sheriff’s Deputies On Press Rights

November 8, 2023 | Source: Monroe Gallery of Photography

 Via LAist

November 8, 2023

The L.A. County Board of Supervisors Tuesday approved a $700,000 settlement with LAist correspondent Josie Huang, who was arrested and injured by sheriff’s deputies while covering a 2020 protest in Lynwood. The settlement includes a requirement that the L.A. County Sheriff's Department re-train deputies on the rights of journalists.

In a legal claim against the county, Huang alleged deputies detained her without legal justification and used unjustified force because she was gathering news in a public place, according to the settlement.

Huang’s arrest drew widespread criticism from elected leaders and journalism organizations at the time. Deputies had claimed she interfered with their arrest of a protester. The district attorney’s office refused to file charges and a judge later found her factually innocent.

“This settlement upholds the rights of journalists and helps ensure that what happened to me won’t happen to other reporters,” Huang said in a statement. “My arrest was traumatic, but I hope that some good can still come of this experience.”  

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"Huang, an award-winning journalist, was leaving a news conference by then-Sheriff Alex Villanueva when she started using her phone to film a group of deputies arresting a protester. A deputy ordered her to back away.

“Without giving her time to comply, deputies aggressively tackled Huang to the ground, causing her injury,” according to a statement from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. Huang suffered multiple injuries, including scrapes and bruises to her knees, ankle and face, as well as emotional distress.

In a draft complaint, her lawyers wrote that “the force used was wildly out of proportion to that needed to effectuate the arrest of Ms. Huang, who, at 5’5 and 122 lbs., was far smaller than the multiple deputies who tackled her, posed no physical threat, and had not committed any crime.”

Huang’s phone fell to the ground. Two deputies stepped on it. The phone survived and was recovered by a fellow journalist. It documented much of what happened.

“Law enforcement tried to destroy evidence rather than preserve it,” said Michael Dore of Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher. “And then the former sheriff made false claims about Ms. Huang’s reporting work that the evidence refuted.”

Tags: arrests of journalists press press freedom protests right to protest