Jury Sees no Retaliation in Reporter’s Arrest

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – A federal jury on Monday found that Bay Area transit police did not arrest a journalist covering a protest in retaliation for his criticism of the agency.
     Indybay newspaper reporter David Morse sued Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) police for arresting him after a protest of the shooting deaths of unarmed transit rider Oscar Grant in 2009 and transient Charles Hill in July 2011, and BART’s decision to shut down cell phone service during an earlier protest.
     Morse claims he followed and took pictures of a group of protesters who walked around an area in front of the turnstiles at a downtown BART station on Sept. 8, 2011 during the evening rush hour.
     BART police surrounded the group after warning them they would be arrested if they blocked fare gates, told them to leave the station or face arrest, and selected Morse as the first person to be arrested, according to an earlier ruling in the case.
     BART officers allegedly held Morse in custody instead of citing and releasing him, as they did with other protesters.
     Morse claims he did not participate in the protest or block fare gates, that he was the only journalist arrested, and that BART Deputy Police Chief Brian Hartwig arrested him because he had written multiple articles heavily criticizing the department for the shootings deaths of Grant and Hill.
     Hartwig claimed Morse was an “active participant” who was part of the group that blocked fare gates.
     The jury ruled against Morse on Monday, finding that his protected speech was not a “but for” cause for Hartwig’s arrest.
     According to Hartwig’s attorney Dale Allen, “The jury returned a verdict that found that Chief Hartwig acted appropriately to the circumstances and did not arrest Mr. Morse for retaliation for his previous articles criticizing the BART police department and BART.
     “I do believe the jury heard all the evidence and that the record is clear that the jury’s verdict was in accordance with the evidence,” Allen told Courthouse News in a telephone interview.
     Morse was represented by Michael Siegel from Siegel & Yee in Oakland, who did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

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