Sara Ganim – centredaily.com
BELLEFONTE — District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller will not pursue a criminal case against a student photographer charged with ignoring police orders to leave the 2008 State College riot that he was covering for the Daily Collegian newspaper.
In a prepared statement Thursday, Parks Miller said it’s in “the interest of justice” that she not continue the appeal started by her predecessor Michael Madeira.
Madeira had approved charges of inciting the crowd of thousands that gathered in Beaver Canyon after Penn State’s football team beat Ohio State that year. Police also charged photographer Michael Felletter with not leaving when police ordered.
Felletter was on assignment for the Penn State student newspaper. Police said that by taking pictures with large equipment, he was encouraging the crowd to act more rowdy.
The charges were thrown out by a judge, but Madeira appealed the case to the state Superior Court in August. Thursday, Parks Miller sent a letter to the Superior Court saying she will not continue the appeal.
“I’m really proud of him for fighting this fight and for not backing down and for understanding,” said Felletter’s attorney Andrew Shubin. “It shows a level of sophistication for a college student to understand the level of importance for fighting this fight and not giving in. I really do think that Michael understood he was fighting this not just for his own career but for the principles.”
Shubin, who represented Felletter for free through the ACLU, has been fighting these charges since Felletter’s arrest, saying the arrest and charge are violations of Felletter’s First Amendment rights.
He said he appreciates the “careful and considerate review of the constitutional principles” by Parks Miller, who, in her campaign against Madeira last year, cited this case as one with which Madeira was wasting resources and exercising poor judgment.
The end of this case, Shubin says, “validates the long-standing First Amendment protections afforded by the courts to the media and their vital role in collecting and disseminating news.”
Parks Miller said in her press release that “while the police always have the ability to tell people to disperse in dangerous crowd situations and people should comply with those directives for safety reasons, based upon the specific facts of record in this particular case, we have chosen to discontinue this appeal.”