In Sept. 2009 I was arrested and charged with conspiracy for reporting on a protest at the Army Experience Center. My lawyer mentioned early the possibility of filing suit. I was somewhat conflicted for many reasons, but I keep seeing incidents where reporters and/or camerapersons are arrested and oftentimes the charges get dropped and it is treated as an isolated case. I think it’s a trend and it has a chilling effect. Even in my case, PBS Frontline was reporting and according to Rob Kall stopped filming and left the scene after being told they would be arrested. I, instead, spent the night in jail.

 Finally decided I’m ready to move ahead because I feel a responsibility to stand up against this even though I think it’s likely not going to be a pleasant experience. Journalist/author, Walter Brasch, wrote an article that was published yesterday on OEN. My lawyer, Paul Hetznecker, is hoping to draw attention to the issue – he is a passionate first amendment type and has spoken a lot publicly (including with Michael German) about the war on dissent.

Pasted below is a link to the article. If you know of any blogs, news sites, etc. that may be interested in publishing it I’d really appreciate it.   —Cheryl Biren-Wright

Former OEN Managing Editor Files Lawsuit Against Philly Police, City. Charge: Constitutional Violations in Her Arrest

By Walter Brasch (about the author)


by Walter M. Brasch, OEN Senior Editor

A former OpEdNews managing editor has filed suit against the city of Philadelphia and eight of its police officers, accusing them of violating her Constitutional rights.

Cheryl Biren-Wright, Pennsauken, N.J., charges the defendants with violating her 1st, 4th, and 14th amendment rights. The civil action, filed in the U.S. District Court, Philadelphia, is based upon events during a peaceful protest Sept. 12, 2009, at the Army Experience Center (AEC) in the Franklin Mills Mall.

According to the complaint, Biren-Wright, who was not a part of the demonstration but at the mall as a reporter-photographer, was arrested and charged with failure to disperse and conspiracy, second degree misdemeanors. The charges were subsequently dropped by the Philadelphia district attorney.

The Philadelphia police also arrested and charged six protestors with conspiracy and failure to disperse–Elaine Brower, 55, New York, N.Y.; Richie Marini, 35, Staten Island, N.Y.; Joan Pleune, 70, Brooklyn, N.Y.(one of the original Freedom Riders in 1961); Beverly Rice, 72, New York, N.Y.; Debra Sweet, 57, Brooklyn, N.Y.; and Sarah Wellington, 26, Piermont, N.Y. Two months after Biren-Wright’s case was dropped, the six protestors were found not guilty in Philadelphia Municipal Court.

Paul J. Hetznecker, who represented the six defendants in the criminal trial, and Biren-Wright in her civil suit, believes that police over-reaction to protestors, as well as their lack of knowledge or appreciation for Constitutional protections, may be “a systemic problem throughout the country.” Hetznecker says under Constitutional and state law, “There can not be an arbitrary and capricious decision to end the civil rights of the protestors.”

The civil suit complaint charges that police violated Biren-Wright’s First Amendment rights to “gather information . . . to cover a matter of public interest including the law enforcement activity in public places.” Actions by the police deprived her of 4th and 14th amendment rights that, according to the complaint, protect against “unreasonable search and seizure,” “loss of physical liberty,” and “freedom from excessive use of unreasonable and justified force.”

The suit lists six separate counts:

          — Abridgement of her rights under the First Amendment to observe and record news in a public place.

          — False arrest and imprisonment

          — Use of excessive force by the police.

          — False arrest under state law

          — Common Law Assault under state


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By Published On: September 25th, 2011Comments Off on Former OEN Managing Editor Files Lawsuit Against Philly Police, City. Charge: Constitutional Violations in Her Arrest

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