U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Broadcast photographer struck, kicked outside Massachusetts court

Incident Details

Date of Incident
June 3, 2024


Was the journalist targeted?

WFXT photographer James Cullity, right, was struck and kicked by a man he and other members of the press were attempting to interview outside a courthouse in Taunton, Massachusetts, on June 3, 2023. The man was arrested on multiple assault charges.

June 3, 2024

James Cullity, a news photographer for television station WFXT, was attacked alongside other members of the press while reporting outside a courthouse in Taunton, Massachusetts, on June 3, 2024. His alleged assailant was charged with multiple counts of assault later that day.

According to a police report shared with the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, a man identified as Louis Chaves was being arraigned at the Taunton District Court on unrelated assault charges and was released on a $250 bond. Following his hearing, Chaves and his wife exited through a side door of the courthouse and were approached by a gaggle of broadcast journalists from multiple local stations seeking comment on the allegations against him.

“Louis appeared to be overcome with rage at the sight of the reporters and started advancing on a cameraman,” the police report stated, identifying Cullity as the targeted journalist.

In footage aired by Boston-based WFXT, Chaves’ wife can be seen attempting to hold him back while he lunges at Cullity, grabs the journalist by the shirt and kicks him. Cullity also appears to shout at Chaves to stop while backing up to avoid being assaulted further.

Chaves then directed his attention and aggression toward a second photojournalist, identified in the police report as Brian Felsenthal of the Rhode Island-based station WPRI-TV. The Tracker has documented that assault here. Other journalists present were charged at but not struck.

After walking a short distance away, Chaves also picked up a branch from a nearby tree and attempted to throw it at the group of journalists but it struck the tree in front of him instead.

Cullity went to a local police station to report the attack at 4 p.m., according to the police, and told officers that he did not suffer any injuries and his equipment was undamaged.

Chaves was arrested several hours later and booked on three charges: assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and assault with a dangerous weapon for his alleged attacks on Cullity, and assault and battery for his alleged attack on Felsenthal.

He was arraigned at 10 a.m. the following day and released on the same bond, but was issued a warning and ordered to undergo a mental health evaluation.

According to court records reviewed by the Tracker, Chaves has a pretrial hearing on Aug. 8.

Neither Cullity nor WFXT responded to requests for comment.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected].