New York’s case against radio journalist delayed until Aug. 1

Tuesday, June 20, 2000

NEW YORK — The case of New York radio journalist allegedly beaten by police and arrested while covering a street protest March 25, Errol Maitland, was delayed yesterday to allow time for the district attorney’s office to respond to motions by the defense.

Among those motions in the Criminal Court of Kings County in Brooklyn, said Maitland’s attorney, Michael Tarif Warren, was the request that the charges be dismissed.

“I set forth a number of cases that were different factually that would give the court some illustrations about why it should be dismissed,” Warren said. “Essentially, that Errol was not in a crowd of people when the order to disperse was given and that he was performing an important function, that of a journalist.

“Therefore there was no factual or legal basis that would support a charge of disorderly conduct and failure to obey.”

Warren said the district attorney’s office requested additional time to respond to the motion and discovery demands included in it for documents, video and audio tapes and other materials related to the case.

The request was granted at a hearing yesterday and July 5 set as the compliance date, with the next hearing on the motions scheduled for Aug. 1.

Maitland, 49, who at the time was a producer for WBAI-Pacifica Radio’s local morning show, “Wake Up Call,” and technical director of Pacifica Radio’s daily national news magazine, “Democracy Now!”, was arrested while covering the funeral and subsequent street protest regarding Patrick Dorismond, a Haitian-American who was fatally shot on March 16 by an NYPD officer.

At the time of his arrest, Maitland, of Jamaican heritage, was providing live coverage on a cell phone of the protest following Dorismond’s funeral at Holy Cross Church in Brooklyn. He described his arrest on air as it was occurring.

Following the arrest and alleged beating, Maitland, 49, was hospitalized for 10 days at Kings County Hospital Center in Brooklyn as a result of what his attorney described as pain in his chest, shoulder, back, knees and head, as well as breathing difficulties.

He has not returned to work since the incident for health reasons, a WBAI spokeswoman said today.

Police spokesman, Sgt. Andrew McInnis, said at the time that Maitland was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct because he forced his way through police lines and did not have proper press credentials.

Meanwhile, Warren has filed a notice of claim — preliminary papers for a lawsuit against the city, its police department and the officers involved, in a case he terms “at the heart of the First Amendment.”

“This is the first time that I can ever remember that a journalist simply reporting the truth has been viciously attacked in the most unwarranted fashion,” Warren said at the time of the incident. “It is so important. In the first instance, you have a journalist being beaten while performing his fundamental responsibilities, the reporting of the news. You also have the preventing of listeners from receiving his observations.”