N.J. newspaper editor sues Newark police over arrest

Thursday, January 24, 2008

NEWARK, N.J. — A newspaper editor has sued the Newark Police Department, charging that police had no right to arrest him and demand he not publish photographs from a crime scene.

The lawsuit, filed yesterday in U.S. District Court, came about two months after the state attorney general found that a Newark police chief violated her directive by questioning the editor and a photographer about their immigration status.

The lawsuit stems from an incident last September in which a freelance photographer for a weekly newspaper, the Brazilian Voice, discovered a dead body and, along with the newspaper's editor, reported it to police.

Roberto Lima, the editor of the Portuguese-language newspaper published in Newark, charged in the lawsuit that police violated his constitutional rights to free speech and protection from unlawful search, seizure and arrest. He also claimed the police had violated the New Jersey Reporter Shield Law.

“I offered Newark police the original photographs as long as I could keep copies, but they handcuffed me to a bench until I agreed to give them all copies and originals,” Lima said in a statement. “They ordered me not to publish the pictures, but freedom of the press means that it's my choice, not the Newark Police Department's.”

The newspaper did not publish any pictures after police coerced Lima into relinquishing a disk containing some of the pictures, the lawsuit states.

Lima seeks unspecified monetary damages.

In a statement, Newark Police Director Garry McCarthy said he could not comment on the lawsuit.

In November, Attorney General Anne Milgram found that Deputy Chief Samuel DeMaio should be disciplined for questioning Lima and the photographer about their immigration status. Lima is a U.S. citizen, while the photographer was an illegal immigrant, said Deborah Jacobs, executive director of the New Jersey chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed the lawsuit for Lima.

DeMaio was among several people, including McCarthy, named in Lima's lawsuit.

Last summer, Milgram ordered police to notify federal authorities when they believe a suspect is in the country illegally. The directive covered only suspects arrested for indictable offenses or drunken driving.

The policy was prompted after a suspect in the slayings of three college students in Newark was found to be an illegal immigrant who was free on bail on child-rape charges when the young people were killed.

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