U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Journalist Ken Lovett arrested for talking on cellphone in New York State Senate lobby

Incident Details

Date of Incident
March 28, 2018
Albany, New York

Arrest/Criminal Charge

Arresting Authority
New York State Police
Unnecessary use of force?
Sean Ewart

New York State Police troopers arrest Daily News journalist Ken Lovett in the lobby of the New York State Senate, on March 28, 2018.

— Sean Ewart
March 28, 2018

Ken Lovett, the Albany bureau chief for the New York Daily News, was arrested by State Police troopers in the lobby of the New York State Senate.

On March 28, 2018, Lovett was handcuffed by State Police troopers in the lobby of the Capitol building and taken to a nearby State Police substation for processing.

After being released, Lovett told the Freedom of the Press Foundation that he was talking on his cellphone when he was approached by a Senate sergeant-at-arms, who ordered him to turn off his phone. Lovett said that he refused, telling the sergeant that the Senate wasn't in session and he (and many others) routinely used their cellphones in the lobby.

Lovett said that the sergeant-at-arms escalated the situation, ordering him to leave the premises and then calling in State Police troopers, who also ordered him to leave the area. He said that he "stood his ground" and was then arrested and told that he could be charged with trespassing.

The Senate sergeant-at-arms refused to comment on the incident.

Nick Reisman, a reporter for Capital Tonight, spoke to eyewitnesses who said that Lovett was talking on his phone when he was approached by the Senate sergeant-at-arms and then arrested by State Police troopers.

A Senate spokesman confirmed that Lovett had been arrested for talking on a cellphone.

“Earlier today a reporter was asked to comply with a rule prohibiting use of a cellphone in the Senate lobby,” the spokesman said in a statement. “He refused and the state police were notified. The incident escalated quickly and unfortunately he was detained by the State Police. We have formally requested that he be released and very much regret the incident.”

A State Police spokesman said in a statement to Politico that the officers who arrested Lovett were responding to a trespassing complaint:

At approximately 1 p.m., State Police responded to the Senate lobby for a trespassing complaint. Upon arrival, Troopers learned that Ken Lovett had refused requests from the Senate Sergeant at Arms/Session to leave the Senate lobby. Lovett had been asked to leave by Senate security staff because he was using his cellphone in the lobby in violation of Senate rules.  After Lovett also refused Troopers’ requests to leave the area, the Sergeant at Arms/Session indicated that he wanted to file a trespassing complaint. Lovett was taken into custody and transported to SP Capital. A short time later, the Sergeant at Arms notified State Police that the complaint was being withdrawn. Lovett was released and no charges were filed.

Lovett said that after he was arrested and taken to the State Police substation, representatives of the Senate visited him to apologize for what happened and say that they would not press charges.

Later, New York governor Andrew Cuomo visited him.

A video recorded by Buffalo News reporter Dan Clark shows Cuomo entering the State Police substation and joking that he was “the court-appointed attorney for Ken Lovett.” Soon after Cuomo arrived, Lovett was released from custody.

In an impromptu press conference, the governor said that he does not expect any criminal charges will be filed against Lovett.

New York governor Andrew Cuomo hosts an impromptu press conference after Daily News reporter Ken Lovett is released from custody.

Jimmy Vielkind/Politico New York

“He’s not going to flee the jurisdiction,” Cuomo said, according to video of the press conference recorded by Politico’s Jimmy Vielkind. “We don’t believe any charges are going to be filed. Freedom of the press is alive and well in the city of Albany.”

“Apparently, there was a disagreement between Ken Lovett and the sergeant-at-arms,” he added. “The Senate doesn’t want to press any charges."

Lovett later tweeted that the State Police troopers who arrested him were "very professional."

Sean Ewart, a staffer for a New York state legislator, told the Freedom of the Press Foundation that he was walking by the Senate lobby when he saw State Police troopers handcuffing Lovett. Ewart said that he has seen many arrests in the Capitol building — it's a common location for protest sit-ins — but this was the first time he had ever seen a journalist arrested there.

Lovett, who has been in Albany for 24 years, also said that he had never heard of a journalist being arrested at the Capitol building before.

A few hours after he was released, Lovett wrote a first-person account of the arrest for the Daily News.

"I can’t say I was surprised someone was led away in handcuffs from the state Capitol on Wednesday afternoon," he wrote. "I just never thought it would be me — especially for the capital crime of talking on a cellphone."

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