EAST PALESTINE, Ohio (WKBN) – Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced that the criminal charges against a reporter who was arrested during an East Palestine train derailment newscast have been dismissed.
Law enforcement arrested reporter Evan Lambert, a correspondent for NewsNation, while he was in town last Wednesday covering a press conference held by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine. DeWine was giving updates on the train derailment at the time.
Following Lambert’s arrest on criminal trespass and resisting arrest charges, a special prosecutor from the Ohio Attorney General’s Special Prosecutions Section was appointed to handle the case.
“My office has reviewed the relevant video and documentary evidence and is dismissing the charges against Evan Lambert as unsupported by sufficient evidence,” Yost said in a statement.
“While journalists could conceivably be subject to criminal charges for trespassing in some situations, this incident is not one of them. The reporter was lawfully present at a press conference called by the Governor of the state. His conduct was consistent with the purpose of the event and his role as a reporter.”
Yost added that tensions were running high in the days following the derailment and that local officials appeared to be following the lead of the National Guard.
“Regardless of the intent, arresting a journalist reporting at a press conference is a serious matter,” Yost said. “Ohio protects a free press under its constitution, and state officials should remember to exercise a heightened level of restraint in using arrest powers.”
An affidavit in the case had claimed that the man in charge of Ohio’s National Guard, Major Gen. John Harris, confronted Lambert over his “loud” reporting and that two Highway Patrol troopers, along with Harris, went back and advised them to stop that reporting.
The affidavit accused Lambert of being involved in an altercation with Harris during the incident. A statement from Harris says Lambert was “aggressively lurching” at him and screaming that “you guys are the ones who strung this thing out!”
Video of the incident from the gymnasium appears to show Harris push Lambert in the chest, leading law enforcement to surround the men, separating Harris from Lambert.
The video then shows a heated conversation between Lambert and law enforcement before officers grab Lambert and escort him into the hallway, where video from other reporters at the scene shows them taking him to the ground in handcuffs.
Lambert had contended that he was only doing his job and wanted to stay and listen to what DeWine had to say.