U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Filmmaker Jahnny Lee charged with obstruction at Standing Rock

Incident Details

Date of Incident
February 22, 2017

Arrest/Criminal Charge

Unnecessary use of force?
Status of Seized Equipment
Returned in full
Search Warrant Obtained
REUTERS/Stephanie Keith

The Oceti Sakowin camp is seen at sunrise during a protest against plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, U.S. November 2, 2016. 

— REUTERS/Stephanie Keith
April 27, 2018 - Update

Charges dismissed

Lee’s charge of physical obstruction was dismissed on April 27, 2018.

February 25, 2017 - Update

Law enforcement returns equipment seized during filmmaker’s arrest

The Morton County Sheriff’s Department returned equipment seized from filmmaker Jahnny Lee on Feb. 25, 2017, three days after he was arrested while documenting protests at Standing Rock.

Deputies seized Lee’s cellphone and camera during his arrest on charges of obstruction of a government function. Lee confirmed to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker in November 2021 that the devices had been returned.

February 22, 2017

Jahnny Lee, a filmmaker working with the Sundance Institute, was arrested on Feb. 22, 2017, while filming a standoff between police and protesters at Standing Rock. On the day of his arrest, Lee was filming on Highway 1806, along with Jack Smith IV. During his arrest, Lee’s camera and phone were seized.

Reed Lindsay, who witnessed the arrest, claimed on Facebook that police initially told journalists that they could film events on Highway 1806, but then later arrested journalists who did so.

Lee was charged with physical obstruction of government function, a Class A misdemeanor that could result in a year in jail. He is scheduled to go to trial in June 2018.

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