Charges Dropped Against Journalist Who Took Pictures of Voters

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Authorities dropped criminal charges against a journalist who was taking photographs of voters standing outside a polling site in 2004.

James S. Henry, of Sag Harbor, N.Y., was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest without violence. He was photographing early voters standing in line on a Sunday afternoon before the November 2004 election in West Palm Beach when a sheriff’s deputy ordered him to stop and tried to grab his camera.

According to the deputy, Henry ran and fell. Witnesses reported the deputy chased and tackled Henry, then handcuffed him.

Authorities said they were enforcing a newly enacted rule from then-Elections Supervisor Theresa LePore that banned journalists from interviewing or photographing voters outside polling sites. LePore restricted journalists to an area 50 feet away.

Henry’s arrest on the misdemeanor charges drew protests from First Amendment advocates.

The disorderly conduct charge was dismissed by a judge in 2005. As a condition of the other charge being dropped, Henry, 56, said he waived his right to sue. He also agreed to serve 15 hours of community service.

“I would have liked to have seen an outcome more supportive of the First Amendment as I understand it,” Henry told The Palm Beach Post. “But I’m delighted the case has been resolved.”

Henry said he was about 125 feet from the voter line when he snapped the two photos that led to his arrest. An arrest document said he took “unauthorized photos” that were “of a compromising matter of these elections.”

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