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Charges dropped against reporter arrested at East Palestine news conference

This photo provided by Ohio State Highway Patrol shows police bodycam footage of NewsNation correspondent Evan Lambert interaction with authorities Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2023 in the gymnasium of an elementary school in East Palestine, Ohio. Lambert was charged with criminal trespass and resisting arrest after authorities said he was told to stop his live broadcast and then refused their orders to leave the news conference with Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine. (Ohio State Highway Patrol via AP)
AP
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Ohio State Highway Patrol
This photo provided by Ohio State Highway Patrol shows police bodycam footage of NewsNation correspondent Evan Lambert interaction with authorities Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2023 in the gymnasium of an elementary school in East Palestine, Ohio. Lambert was charged with criminal trespass and resisting arrest after authorities said he was told to stop his live broadcast and then refused their orders to leave the news conference with Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine. (Ohio State Highway Patrol via AP)

A cable news reporter pushed to the ground and handcuffed while covering a news conference about a train derailment in Ohio will no longer face charges, the state's attorney general said Wednesday.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost dismissed trespassing and resisting arrest charges against NewsNation correspondent Evan Lambert, saying he had every right to be at the press conference.

Lambert was arrested and then jailed for five hours on Feb. 8 after authorities said he was told to stop his live broadcast and refused their orders to leave the news conference with Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine.

The reporter said in a statement Wednesday that he was grateful for who those worked to see that the charges were dismissed, including DeWine.

“It is by design that reporters aren't meant to become the story. In my case, I truly did not choose this,” he said.

Body-camera footage showed Lambert had a heated confrontation with Maj. Gen. John Harris Jr., commander of the Ohio National Guard, just before he was arrested by a sheriff's deputy and an East Palestine police officer.

Police said Lambert was talking loudly while on the air from the back of the gym while DeWine was speaking at the same time.

Yost, who was asked by the county prosecutor to review the charges, said the local officials appeared to be following the lead of the National Guard.

“Regardless of the intent, arresting a journalist reporting at a press conference is a serious matter,” Yost said. “Ohio protects a free press under its constitution, and state officials should remember to exercise a heightened level of restraint in using arrest powers.”

DeWine, who as governor was at the news conference giving an update about the derailment of a train carrying toxic chemicals, said he did not authorize the arrest or see the disagreement, adding that reporters have “every right” to report during briefings.

He had called for the charges to be dismissed and said on Tuesday that he had talked with Harris. “I think the general regrets the whole situation,” DeWine said.

Body-camera footage showed Harris confronted and pointed a finger at Lambert and then briefly pushed the reporter with one hand in the chest. Lambert also was pointing and talking to Harris until a state trooper stepped in between the two and moved away the commander, the footage showed.

Lambert later pulled away from two officers who then pushed him to the floor and handcuffed him, the video showed.

“This is what it’s like to be a Black reporter in 2023,” Lambert said while he was being held down, according to the footage.

The two officers who handcuffed Lambert are white as is the Columbiana County sheriff who ordered Lambert to leave. Both Lambert and Harris, the national guard commander who is a member of the governor’s cabinet, are Black.

Lambert said in his statement Wednesday that he was still processing what was a traumatic event “in the context of a time where we are hyper aware of how frequently some police interactions with people of color can end in much worse circumstances.”

The Associated Press