LOS ANGELES (CN) – A news reporter has avoided criminal contempt after leaving a Verizon Wireless device plugged into an outlet in the courtroom where a white BART officer is currently on trial for the death of a black passenger who was shot at close range.
The trial is underway in Los Angeles after a change of venue caused by the depth of anger over the killing in the Oakland community. The judge hearing the case, Robert Perry, has banned the use of any electronic device in the courtroom.
Anyi Howell, a black reporter for Youth Radio in the Bay Area, appeared with his lawyer R.K. Bickerstaff as well as Youth Radio’s lawyer Bill Sokol. Bickerstaff said that his client had “no intention of violating court order.” He wanted to charge the device for later use.
Judge Robert Perry said from the bench that the device “looked like a device that was used in violation of the court order.”
“Mr. Howell did not believe he was violating the rule,” Bickerstaff said. “The purpose of this device is for the user to access internet in places that have no internet access.”
The judge asked if the device had any transferring capabilities and Bickerstaff answered that it does not.
“It does not have recording capability,” Bickerstaff said. “It does not have any picture taking capability.”
A computer analyst from the Los Angeles court system court came to the hearing and Perry asked the analyst if Bickerstaff’s statements were true.
“I do agree,” he said. He also said that the device needed an additional device, such as an laptop, to transfer information.
Perry asked the reporter if he was transmitting anything the day that the device was plugged in. Howell said he was not.
Howell was released from the threat of contempt, said the judge, because the device alone could not transmit any information outside the courtroom and because Howell did not disobey the court order on purpose.
“I think you have to understand that you shouldn’t have it out in the way you had it out,” Judge Perry said. “I think this is innocent. I’ll view this as an innocent mistake.”