Updates to our Terms of Use

We are updating our Terms of Use. Please carefully review the updated Terms before proceeding to our website.

Thursday, June 20, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Ferguson Reporter Claims Cops Defamed Him

ST. LOUIS (CN) - St. Louis County police falsely arrested a reporter covering the Ferguson protests and then defamed him online, the man claims in Federal Court.

Gerald Yingst III, a reporter for News2Share.com, sued St. Louis County and its police Lt. James Vollmer on Tuesday, alleging battery, illegal search and seizure, false imprisonment, defamation and other offenses.

Yingst claims he was videotaping interactions between police and protesters on Nov. 22 around 11:30 p.m. when he was arrested.

Officers at that time were yelling at protesters to clear the street and move to another sidewalk, Yingst says.

Yingst was standing with other reporters on South Florissant Road, where many of the protests occurred.

He claims that Vollmer pointed at him and "a few subordinate patrolmen" surrounded him.

"Yingst, fearing imminent arrest, told defendant Vollmer, 'Sir, I'm just standing on a public sidewalk.'

"Defendant Vollmer then told his subordinate patrolmen to 'lock him up,'" the complaint states.

Yingst says the officers handcuffed him and offered no response when he asked why he was being arrested. He says police took his camera and film and refused to return them. He was jailed overnight and charged with unlawful assembly.

Under Missouri law, a person commits unlawful assembly if he knowingly assembles with six or more people and agrees to violate criminal laws, the complaint states. Yingst says there was no probable cause to arrest him under that statute.

He claims the county police then defamed him on Twitter.

"After arresting Yingst, the St. Louis County Police Department tweeted, using Yingst's official Twitter handle, '@TreyYingst reporter from D.C. taken into custody for failure to disperse. Was asked to leave street by the commander and refused. #Ferguson.' The tweet was posted to the St. Louis County Police Department's official Twitter page," the complaint states. "A screenshot of the tweet is attached as Exhibit E."

Yingst claims the police publicly disclosed this information knowing it was false.

He claims the tweet was still publicly posted on the police department's Twitter feed on Dec. 11, and that it "has been retweeted 239 times and favorited 97 times. It has elicited 21 replies."

Yingst seeks punitive damages for violations of his First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights, violations of the Privacy Protection Act, failure to supervise and train, false imprisonment, battery, conversion and defamation.

He is represented by Anthony E. Rothert with the American Civil Liberties Union.

Follow @@joeharris_stl
Categories / Uncategorized

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.