Lachlan Cartwright, an editor-at-large for The Daily Beast, was arrested and charged with trespassing on April 17, 2022, while at a store in New York City.
Cartwright told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that he was charged as a form of payback following an adversarial interaction he had with a New York Police Department officer while covering a protest in 2020. On Aug. 23, his attorney filed a lawsuit on his behalf against the city and 10 NYPD officers.
Cartwright said he entered a storefront in Lower Manhattan at around noon on April 17 to buy gifts for his sister. When he noticed that there were no employees in the store, he attempted to reach managers, messaging the store through Instagram and calling its sister store in Florida.
The manager of the sister store told him that the shop’s manager would be coming in, and Cartwright said he offered to wait around as long as he could. After around 10 minutes — approximately 40 minutes since he had first walked into the store — Cartwright said he left a note with the items he wanted to purchase and went to leave. That’s when he noticed the sirens.
NYPD officers then entered the store, approached Cartwright and placed him under arrest.
“I consistently and repeatedly told them what had happened and the fact that if they’d just check the note, the security camera and talk to the store, this would all be resolved,” Cartwright told the Tracker.
Officers transported Cartwright to the NYPD’s 6th Precinct, eventually allowing him to call his editor at The Daily Beast. A few hours later, an officer asked whether he had his NYPD press credentials. Cartwright told the Tracker that since he had stopped covering events that would necessitate it, he had not gone through the process of renewing it for at least a year.
Cartwright told the Tracker that when he asked what was going on, one of his arresting officers told him that he had been speaking with the NYPD’s Deputy Commissioner for Public Information’s Office and that, “They know who you are.”
A short while later, Cartwright said one of the officers stepped out of the room to speak with someone. When the officer returned, he told Cartwright that while his story had checked out, they were still charging him with criminal trespass in the third degree.
“I broke down crying. I was just in such a state of shock that this was going on and just absolutely baffled as to how they could carry out an investigation and tell me that I did nothing wrong but then charge me with something,” he told the Tracker.
Approximately three to four hours after he was placed under arrest, Cartwright was released with a citation and orders to appear before a judge. The Office of the District Attorney for New York County declined to prosecute the charge against the editor on April 21.
Cartwright said that both he and one of his colleagues at The Daily Beast spoke with sources at the department who confirmed that the DCPI did not like him, referencing an interaction he had with officers while covering a Black Lives Matter protest in Union Square Park in May 2020.
The DCPI did not respond to emails requesting comment.
National Lawyers Guild attorney Gideon Orion Oliver filed a notice of claim on Cartwright’s behalf on July 15, 2022, and the lawsuit against the City of New York and multiple police officers on Aug. 23.
“I want to find out exactly what was happening that day behind the scenes because it’s not just a suspicion that this was payback or retribution against me for basically journalism: We have it from two different sources that it was,” Cartwright told the Tracker.
Oliver told the Tracker that the case will go through mediation before reaching discovery, but they hope to identify the DCPI officer or officers who communicated about Cartwright while he was in custody and the extent to which that influenced the decision to charge him. He added that while they hope to speak with the officers themselves, he could not rule out the possibility of calling on Cartwright’s colleague to testify.
The Tracker was unable to independently corroborate Cartwright’s assertion that the charges against him were specifically in retaliation for the May 2020 incident.