« How exactly do transitions impact the SCOTUS docket and cert grant decisions? | Main | Latest news on impeachment process for former Judge Kent »

June 1, 2009

Interesting local sentencing story implicating racial and free press issues

I just came across this interesting local sentencing story that seems to involve a lot more than just sentencing law and policy.  Here are the basics:

Diane Bukowski, a reporter for the African-American owned Michigan Citizen newspaper, was given one year of probation, 200 hours of community service and ordered to pay $4,000 in fines Monday morning after being convicted of two felony counts of police obstruction last month.

Bukowski was arrested at the scene of a fatal high-speed police chase crash in northeast Detroit last November.  Her conviction has been seen as a political attack from the office of Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy because of Bukowski’s dogged reporting of police brutality and related justice issues in Detroit.  Bukowksi has criticized the Wayne County prosecutor’s office for not responding to these incidents or investigating police officers who were accused of violence and rape.

Early during the sentencing, Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Michael Hathaway said he would not give Bukowski jail time. Seconds before announcing his sentence, Hathaway said he was being fair: “I’m very comfortable with the result of this case and with the sentence that I am about to impose,” he said.

Hathaway briefly touched on the issue of the case being retribution for her reporting.  “If the defense could show that any trooper knew who she was it could perhaps explain a motive,” he said. “We kept politics out of this case and I’m gonna keep politics out of the sentencing.”...

The courtroom which was packed with Bukowski supporters including grassroots coalition Call ‘Em Out leader Agnes Hitchcock and Detroit School Board member Marie Thornton. Bukowski told Michigan Messenger in an interview after the sentencing that she was glad she didn’t get jail time but she had other concerns. “This type of thing will happen to other journalists,” she said. “I’m very concerned about the state of the First Amendment.”...

During the sentencing, one state trooper who assisted in Bukowski’s arrest, Andrea Barber, accused the reporter of not only crossing police lines but threatening public safety. “Ms. Bukowski walked 150 feet into crime scene and put innocent citizens at risk because of crowd control,” she said in her statement. “It took three troopers [who would have been on crowd control] to constrain Ms. Bukowski … luckily we all made it home safe.”...

Prosecutor Tom Trizinski also called for hard sentencing. Since the judge said early on that he would not give Bukowski jail time, Trizinski suggested that she get five years probation and be ordered to enroll in journalism ethics classes at Wayne State University.  “She made [the state troopers'] jobs 100 percent harder that day.”  He said. “She doesn’t have a journalistic ethics background at all.”

June 1, 2009 at 05:18 PM | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Interesting local sentencing story implicating racial and free press issues:


Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB