Charges dismissed against PG reporter

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The Allegheny County district attorney's office has dismissed charges against a Post-Gazette reporter arrested while covering a protest in Oakland during the G-20 summit.

Sadie Gurman, 24, was one of more than 100 people, including many students and several other journalists, swept up by police on the night of Sept. 25 near Pitt's Cathedral of Learning. She had been charged with failure to disperse and disorderly conduct.

After reviewing evidence and consulting with police, the district attorney's office determined that Ms. Gurman was "apparently working as a credentialed journalist at the time of her arrest. Thus we are withdrawing the charges," Mike Manko, a spokesman for District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr., said yesterday.

Efrem M. Grail, an attorney for Ms. Gurman, was informed of the decision Tuesday by Chief Trial Deputy District Attorney Dan Fitzsimmons.

"We are delighted that Sadie Gurman, who was only doing her job and who was doing it well, no longer faces these charges," David Shribman, the Post-Gazette's executive editor, said in a statement. "The debate about what happened that evening will go on for some time, but Sadie's commitment to her craft and her professionalism are beyond debate. We're proud of her work, proud to have her on the Post-Gazette and relieved that the record now has been clarified and rectified."

Mr. Zappala has said he also will drop charges against at least four Pitt students, but Ms. Gurman's case is the first formal dismissal.

Nearly 200 people were arrested during the two-day summit last month, with the majority of arrests taking place late Sept. 25 in Oakland, hours after world leaders had left Pittsburgh.

Citing concerns about a repeat of the window smashing that struck the university area the night before, police ordered a crowd of several hundred to disperse from Schenley Plaza between 10:30 and 10:45 p.m. About 11 p.m., officers surrounded a group that had moved across Forbes Avenue to the Cathedral of Learning lawn.

Ms. Gurman was among several journalists taken into custody, including Vaughn Wallace and Victor Powell, both photographers for The Pitt News.

Cristopher Hoel, an attorney for the photographers, said he hoped his clients would receive similar consideration from the district attorney's office.

"It is gravely unfortunate that journalists were arrested while doing their jobs," he said.

Mr. Wallace and Mr. Powell recently met with Pitt police Chief Tim Delaney, who said he would recommend dropping charges against the two students, according to Mr. Hoel. The chief, who was unavailable for comment yesterday, has made similar recommendations for at least a dozen other students.

Mr. Zappala's office is reviewing all arrests on a "case-by-case basis," Mr. Manko said.

"If anybody wants to bring us any evidence on any case, we'll take a look at it," he said.

Some people facing charges of failure to disperse and disorderly conduct have the option of performing community service to clear their records.

Melissa Hill, a reporter from Minneapolis who came to Pittsburgh to cover the G-20 for Twin Cities Indymedia, said she won't accept such a deal.

"I'm not going to plea to community service if I didn't do anything wrong," said Ms. Hill, 30, who was arrested Sept. 25 and must come back to Pittsburgh next week for a preliminary hearing. "It sends a message that you can just arrest people and then try to hide what you did."

Also next week, Pittsburgh's Citizen Police Review Board will hold its first public forum on the G-20. The meeting will take place at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Stephen Foster Community Center at 286 Main St. in Lawrenceville, and it will focus only on complaints stemming from police activity in the Lawrenceville area.

An exact time and place for an Oakland meeting has not yet been determined, said Elizabeth Pittinger, the board's executive director.


Jerome L. Sherman can be reached at jsherman@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1183.


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