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Tuesday, May 21, 2024 | Back issues
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Reporter Can’t Sue Over|Anti-War Protest Arrest

(CN) - A San Francisco reporter who claims police falsely arrested him and broke his thumb while he was filming an anti-war protest can't sue for damages, the 9th Circuit ruled, because the officers "had probable cause ... to arrest [him] for jaywalking."

Reporter Mark Burdett was covering an Iraq war protest for Indybay in March 2004 when he said he stepped into Market Street to film an officer tackling a protester.

Burdett said another officer falsely accused him of knocking down a motorcycle, and police soon threw him face-first to the ground and beat him, breaking his camera and one of his thumbs while handcuffing him.

Burdett was not prosecuted over the incident. He later sued the officers for excessive force and false arrest.

Despite conflicting accounts of where exactly Burdett was in the street -- he claimed his was close to the curb, and the officers said he was in the middle of the street -- a jury awarded a token $1 in damages against the arresting officer but dismissed Burdett's excessive-force claim.

The 9th Circuit upheld a magistrate judge's decision to dismiss the false arrest and excessive force claims.

"Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to Burdett, the Arresting Officers had probable cause, or at least a reasonable belief that probable cause existed, to arrest Burdett for jaywalking," the appellate panel wrote.

Burdett was not initially accused of jaywalking, but police later cited him for it as grounds for dismissing his lawsuit.

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