- Date of Incident
- February 8, 2023
- East Palestine, Ohio
- Evan Lambert (NewsNation)
- Arrest Status
- Arrested and released
- Arresting Authority
- East Palestine Police Department
Trespassing: criminal trespass
- Feb. 8, 2023: Charges pending
- Feb. 15, 2023: Charges dropped
Obstruction: resisting arrest
- Feb. 8, 2023: Charges pending
- Feb. 15, 2023: Charges dropped
- Trespassing: criminal trespass
- Unnecessary use of force?
- Law enforcement
- Was the journalist targeted?
Charges against NewsNation correspondent dropped
On Feb. 15, 2023, the Ohio attorney general announced that charges against NewsNation correspondent Evan Lambert had been dismissed.
Lambert had been pinned to the ground and arrested a week earlier while covering Gov. Mike DeWine’s press conference about a train derailment. He was charged with fourth degree criminal trespassing and second degree resisting arrest.
In a multi-page statement posted on Twitter, Lambert said that he was still processing the event but was grateful to those who worked to secure his release and the dismissal of the charges.
“I am doing alright. And I will be OK,” Lambert wrote. “I will also continue to do my job without fear or favor in service of the public.”
Lambert’s attorney Frank Cassese said in a statement to NewsNation that the entire situation should have been avoided, but Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost’s swift action was appreciated.
Body camera footage, law enforcement statements released in arrest of NewsNation correspondent
A day after NewsNation Correspondent Evan Lambert was arrested in Ohio at a news conference with the governor, multiple law enforcement agencies published statements about the sequence of events. NewsNation published body camera footage from a state highway patrol trooper as well as statements from its president of news, D.C. bureau chief and Lambert’s attorney.
The East Palestine Police Department statement clarified which law enforcement agencies were involved. It stated that two highway patrol troopers and the head of the Ohio National Guard approached Lambert and told him to stop his live reporting. Multiple officers with the Columbiana County Sheriff’s Office and EPPD then became involved as the situation escalated.
Both EPPD and the state National Guard statements describe Lambert as disruptive and that he repeatedly ignored requests to leave the gymnasium. The head of the Ohio National Guard also asserted that Lambert became agitated and enraged.
Lambert’s attorney dismissed the claims that the correspondent was the aggressor as patently false.
“It is our position that the numerous videos of the incident, as recorded by bystanders, speak for themselves,” attorney Frank Cassese said in his statement to NewsNation.
Cassese added that charging Lambert is “a futile attempt by law enforcement to justify their inexcusable interference with Mr. Lambert performing his duties as a journalist.”
According to court records reviewed by the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, EPPD charged Lambert with fourth degree criminal trespassing and second degree resisting arrest, not disorderly conduct as initially reported by NewsNation. If convicted, Lambert faces up to 120 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Gov. Mike DeWine told NewsNation that he was shocked by Lambert’s arrest and that he had not authorized it.
“I don’t want to see him in jail, I don’t want to see him prosecuted. But for me to say I know what happened would simply not be the truth,” DeWine said. “No one ever wants to see a reporter who is doing their job handcuffed and arrested. I don’t like it at all.”
The governor has not called for the charges to be dropped.
Lambert was released several hours after his arrest after paying a $750 bail bond, and has an arraignment scheduled for Feb. 23.
NewsNation Correspondent Evan Lambert was forced to the ground and arrested while covering a news conference held by Ohio’s governor in East Palestine on Feb. 8, 2023. The outlet reported live as he was released approximately five hours later.
Lambert was reporting live at around 5 p.m. as Gov. Mike DeWine spoke in a school gymnasium about clean-up efforts around a recent train derailment. Law enforcement officers approached Lambert at the back of the room, telling him to be quiet. After finishing his live report, officers again approached him and asked that he leave.
In footage of the incident, Lambert can be seen speaking with four law enforcement officers as one of them pulls on Lambert’s arm to forcibly remove him. Officers ultimately forced Lambert to the ground, pinning him on his stomach while handcuffing him. Two officers then place him in what appears to be a Columbiana County Sheriff’s Office vehicle.
NewsNation Washington Bureau Chief Mike Viqueria said during a broadcast that he spoke to Lambert while he was jailed.
“The first thing I’m going to tell you is Evan continues to act with a calm professionalism and equanimity despite what appears to me to be an infuriating outrage and violation of the First Amendment,” Viqueria said.
NewsNation reported live as Lambert was released from the Columbiana County Jail at around 10:15 p.m. He faces charges of criminal trespassing and disorderly conduct. It was not immediately clear which law enforcement agency filed the charges. When reached by phone, the Columbiana County Sheriff’s Office directed the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker to contact the East Palestine Police Department. A EPPD officer said that they would be releasing a press release on Feb. 9.
After his release, Lambert said he was doing fine and that it had been an extremely long day.
“I’m just trying to do my job — as I am continuing to do right now — and that’s what it’s all about,” Lambert said. “No journalist expects to be arrested when you’re doing your job, and I think that’s really important that that doesn’t happen in our country.”
The governor told reporters shortly after the arrest that he had not ordered or authorized it.
“It has always been my practice that if I’m doing a press conference, someone wants to report out there and they want to be talking back to the people back on channel, whatever, they have every right to do that,” DeWine said. “If someone was stopped from doing that, or told they could not do that, that was wrong.”
The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected]