Iowa journalist acquitted after arrest during Black Lives Matter protest

Iowa journalist acquitted after arrest during Black Lives Matter protest
© iStock

Des Moines Register reporter Andrea Sahouri was acquitted by a jury Wednesday after she had been charged with failure to disperse and interference with official acts while covering a Black Lives Matter protest in 2020.

The Des Moines Register reported that the six-member jury returned a not-guilty verdict after a three day trial. Spenser Robnett, who was Sahouri's boyfriend at the time of her arrest and was also arrested and charged, was acquitted of all charges.

The arresting officer, Luke Wilson, said during the trial that he arrested Sahouri after she failed to disperse from a protest site. Sahouri, Robnett and defense attorneys have all stated that the reporters did not hear the dispersal order.

ADVERTISEMENT

"You cannot refuse to obey what you did not hear," defense attorney Nicholas Klinefeldt said in his closing argument on Wednesday. Klinefeldt argued that the state's case against Sahouri and Robnett was based entirely on Wilson's testimony. Wilson's body camera was not turned on when he arrested Sahouri, mistakenly believing it was already filming.

During her testimony on Tuesday, Sahouri said she had been temporarily blinded by pepper spray during her encounter with officer Wilson. She said she repeatedly identified herself as a reporter to which Wilson responded, "That’s not what I asked.”

The defense had filed a motion for acquittal, though Judge Lawrence McLellan had withheld on the motion on Tuesday.

"When I look at the totality of the evidence, I believe there is substantial evidence that a jury could infer that there was intentional spoliation of evidence," McLellan said Wednesday.

Sahouri tweeted out two photos of her arrest along with the caption "Acquitted." shortly after the jury's verdict was issued.

-Updated 3:37 p.m.