Journalist receives failure to disperse charge four months after documenting Dodgers celebrations

October 27, 2020

Four months after covering celebrations in Los Angeles, California, following the Dodgers’ World Series win on Oct. 27, 2020, multimedia journalist Lexis-Olivier Ray says he received a citation for failure to disperse that evening.

Los Angeles and cities across the U.S. experienced protests against police brutality throughout the summer, and crowds in L.A. had clashed with police earlier in October during celebrations of the Lakers’ NBA championship win. The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker is documenting assaults, arrests and other incidents involving journalists covering protests across the country.

USA Today reported that the Dodgers celebrations took place mainly downtown and in Echo Park, a neighborhood near Dodger Stadium. Ray was on assignment that evening for L.A. Taco, a digital-only outlet focused on the city.

Ray told the Tracker that while documenting the scene he was assaulted by LAPD officers, who tackled him to the ground and beat him with batons just after midnight, damaging his equipment — an incident which the Tracker has documented here — but he was not detained or issued a citation.

It was a surprise, Ray said, when he got a letter from the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office on March 3, 2021, notifying him that the office had received a report alleging that he had “violated Section PC409 Riot — remaining after warning to disperse on Oct. 27, 2020.”

Failure to disperse is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

The letter ordered him to appear for a hearing on March 8, stating that should he fail to appear, criminal charges may be brought against him.

“I spoke to a public defender that said if I appear it will likely get thrown out,” Ray said, “but I have a lot of questions about why I received this notice in the first place.”

Neither the city attorney’s office nor the Los Angeles Police Department responded to requests for comment as of press time.

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

March 9, 2021 Update

The Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office declined to pursue charges against multimedia journalist Lexis-Olivier Ray during an office hearing on March 9, 2021.

Ray received a letter from the City Attorney on March 3 notifying him that the Los Angeles Police Department had filed a report alleging that he had failed to disperse when officers declared an unlawful assembly amid celebrations following the Dodgers’ World Series win on Oct. 27, 2020.

Ray told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that the “office hearing” — which local public defender Rosemary McClure described as akin to being sent to the principal’s office — consisted of a hearing officer reading the LAPD police report aloud to him. The report, Ray said, did note that he was a member of the press and alleged he had not complied when officers ordered him to disperse.

“The hearing officer said the case is going to stay ‘open’ for the duration of the statute of limitations,” Ray said, noting that it is one year for misdemeanors such as this. “If there is a repeat offense and they have enough evidence they can file the old case and any new one.”

Ray said he is concerned about his ability to document protests in the future.

McClure told the Tracker that Ray’s concerns are justified, as a second arrest before Oct. 28, 2021, would mean two open cases against him, which could be used to paint him as a danger to the public and lead to a judge setting bail or having him remain in custody.

As the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office declined to pursue charges against Ray, the Tracker is listing his case with charges dropped.

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