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Civic Rights, Free Speech at Issue in Photojournalist’s Felony Trial

Alexei Wood is the only journalist still facing felony charges after being swept up in the arrests of rioters at President Donald Trump's inauguration. (Alexei Wood/Youtube)
Alexei Wood is the only journalist still facing felony charges after being swept up in the arrests of rioters at President Donald Trump's inauguration. (Alexei Wood/Youtube)
November 16, 2017

RICHMOND, Va. – Press groups and photojournalist Alexei Wood say there are troubling implications to Wood's trial on charges of multiple felonies.

Wood stands charged with six felonies and two misdemeanors in a Washington, D.C. Superior Court.

He says the video he shot of rioting during President Donald Trump's inauguration shows he did nothing wrong, but prosecutors are accusing him of rioting just for being there.

Wood says that should be troubling to reporters and anyone who believes in a free and aggressive press.

"I'm following resistance movements,” he explains. “That is my beat, and I'm really good at it, and that's an absolutely legitimate beat. And it's, it's being criminalized."

Wood faces up to 60 years in prison.

Prosecutors say he conspired with the rioters and therefore also is to blame for the attacks on police and property destruction committed by others in the group, even if he did not do those things himself.

More than 200 people, including half a dozen journalists, were penned in and arrested during the protests on Jan. 20, which were largely peaceful.

All the other journalists and many of the protesters have seen their charges dropped or reduced to misdemeanors.

Gregg Leslie, legal defense director for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, says it's not at all clear why Wood still is in jeopardy.

Leslie says this kind of guilt by association is dangerous.

"If you're participating in a march and one person does something illegal and they tie that to all 200 people, that's a truly troubling trend," he states.

Wood also is a new kind of journalist – one delivering raw video to the public, without going through a regular news organization.

But while Wood says the prosecutors accuse him of "advertising anarchy," he feels what he does is the truest form of a free press.

"If people want to critique my professionalism, I've got no qualms with that,” he states. “And I live-streamed it and it's out there for the entire world to come to their own conclusions."

Wood estimates his trial may take another two weeks. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 31 journalists have been arrested while doing their jobs in the U.S. this year.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - VA