The state attorney general for Ohio will not proceed with a criminal case against NewsNation reporter Evan Lambert, who was arrested on suspicion of criminal trespass and disorderly conduct while covering a press conference earlier this month.
On Wednesday, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said there was insufficient evidence to proceed with a case against Lambert, noting that video evidence and other material related to the case showed the NewsNation correspondent was acting in his capacity as a journalist when he attended a press conference held by Governor Mike DeWine on a train derailment.
Lambert was conducting a live broadcast for NewsNation inside the gymnasium where DeWine was speaking when he was asked by a law enforcement official to be quiet. Lambert complied with the request, but was later asked to leave the venue.
Lambert refused to leave. At one point, a law enforcement official grabbed Lambert, and the reporter objected. Minutes later, he was placed under arrest, escorted to a sheriff’s vehicle and driven to the Columbiana County Jail.
Asked about Lambert’s arrest, Wine said he did not give an order to the Ohio National Guard or anyone else to have the reporter removed from his press conference.
On Wednesday, Yost said journalists are not immune from criminal charges if they actually commit a crime, but Lambert’s actions didn’t rise to that level.
“While journalists could conceivably be subject to criminal charges for trespassing in some situations, this incident is not one of them,” Yost said. “The reporter was lawfully present at a press conference called by the Governor of the state. His conduct was consistent with the purpose of the event and his role as a reporter.”
Yost said Lambert’s arrest amid a heightened sense of tension among law enforcement officials, who were dealing with the aftermath of the train derailment in the state. Chemicals were released during the derailment, and residents of nearby East Palestine have complained of adverse health effects ever since.
“Regardless of the intent, arresting a journalist reporting at a press conference is a serious matter,” Yost affirmed. “Ohio protects a free press under its constitution, and state officials should remember to exercise a heightened level of restraint in using arrest powers.”
It was not clear if the law enforcement officials who arrested Lambert would face any disciplinary action.
Following Yost’s announcement, Lambert posted a lengthy statement to social media in which the journalist said he was still dealing with the “traumatic” effects of the arrest. Still, he said he had “great respect for the officers who do their jobs every day with integrity, civil rights, justice and safety at the core of their mission.”
“I am doing alright, and I will be okay,” Lambert wrote. “I will also continue to do my job without fear or favor in service of the public. I also hope what happened to me shines further attention on the people of East Palestine, who rightly have questions about their safety in light of an environmental hazard.”