Marin County Drops Charges Against Journalist, Sausalito Keeps Phone and Camera

No charges will be filed against a journalist arrested last month during a confrontation with Sausalito police at a homeless encampment, Marin County District Attorney Lori Frugoli announced on Tuesday.

Sausalito officers arrested Jeremy Portje on Nov. 30 on suspicion of battery on an officer and resisting arrest. During a scuffle with Portje, an officer suffered a laceration and bruise to his face, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said they were unable to gather enough evidence showing Portje intended to injure the officer.

In response to Frugoli's  announcement, First Amendment Coalition Executive Director David Snyder said, “We are very glad to hear that Mr. Portje is not being charged. He should not have been arrested in the first place.”

“The fact remains that police obtained a warrant for a journalist's devices, contrary to clear California law and, as far as I know now still have Mr. Portje's camera, storage devices and iPhones, Snyder said. “It was a violation of Mr. Portje's constitutional rights that police ever obtained these materials and they should have been returned to him weeks ago.”

“While we take all allegations of assault on a police officer seriously, in this case a team of veteran prosecutors who reviewed the case found that the evidence did not show beyond a reasonable doubt that Portje intended to injure the officer,” Frugoli said in a statement. “Beyond a reasonable doubt is the standard of proof required by ethical and legal standards for prosecutors to move forward with a case. It is a higher standard than probable cause, which is the standard required by law enforcement to make an arrest.”

As part of the investigation Portje's video camera and cell phone were seized. Although prosecutors obtained search warrants to examine the phone and video footage, prosecutors said they will not review them.

The First Amendment Coalition earlier this month accused the district attorney's office of violating Portje's constitutional rights by obtaining a search warrant for a journalist's devices.

Under California's Shield Law, law enforcement is prohibited from forcing journalists to hand over unpublished material or reveal confidential sources.

 

 

4 Comments

  1. There must be more to this story. Why are they holding onto the property? Is it just that the police property office is only open a couple days a week and one of those days hasn’t rolled around yet? Or does the government just get to keep it indefinitely to annoy the owner because they don’t like him?

    A cop’s face was lacerated. That’s just another day at the office, too bad? Or a cop learns, don’t grab for someone’s camera and you won’t get hit in the face with it?

    What was the reporter videoing? Can’t he give a verbal description of what he was recording? Is it simply that homeless life in Sausalito is so idyllic that the city doesn’t want any pictures to get out because then people would come from all over the country? Or are they pictures of SPD beating people with nightsticks as in the Rodney King incident?

    And what about the FAC? Have they already appealed the search warrant? Should we look forward to a ringing reversal from what is it, the First District Court of Appeal? Will Sausalito be made to pay for first amendment abuse?

  2. From what I read elsewhere (mainly in the SF Chron on this story), the cop grabbed for the camera and bonked himself on the face. It was the cop’s fault, there was no assault on a police officer. Of course, that’s what the cops will claim to save face, in addition to stating a bunch of BS like “stop resisting” and they’ll testify how scared for their own lives they were during the incident, all of which are get-out-of-jail-free cards they get to play, but we, the people, do not.

    There *really* must have been no evidence here for the DA to drop charges. But of course, she won’t lift a finger to get the journalist’s property back from the criminal organization called the Sausalito police.

  3. From what I understand even if taking his property is based on civil forfeiture, that may lay the groundwqork for a major lawsuit against the department. Unless it is being used as evidence AGAINST the police officer for filing false reports and attempting to frame this person.

  4. One detail the story did include: “Although prosecutors obtained search warrants to examine the phone and video footage, prosecutors said they will not review them.”

    I think “not review them” means “it is [NOT] being used as evidence”, even hypothetically.

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