Michigan journalist facing 20 years for photographing crash scene
Update: A TV news segment from Detroit’s local Fox affiliate. I can’t figure out how to embed it, so if anybody knows, please let me know.
Update: Felony charges still pending three months later.
Michigan State Police first arrested reporter Diane Bukowski on a single misdemeanor charge of obstructing an investigation after she allegedly crossed a police line to photograph the scene of a double fatality resulting from a police chase.
Prosecutor Kym Worthy
Three days later, Wayne County prosecutor Kym Worthy decided to charge the Detroit journalist with five felony counts of assaulting, resisting and obstructing a police officer, which carry a possible sentence of 20 years, according to The Michigan Citizen, the weekly newspaper she was working for at the time.
Adding insult to injury, the arresting officers deleted the images she took, which is not only a violation of her First Amendment rights, but a destruction of evidence.
And that also happens to be a felony.
The insanity began Nov. 4 after a police chase through the streets of Detroit ended up with a dead motorcyclist and a dead pedestrian.
At issue is what caused the motorcyclist to lose control and strike the pedestrian.
Bukowski reported that a police car struck the motorcyclist, forcing him into the pedestrian.
Police claim the motorcyclist lost control on his own after he sped through a red traffic light.
Perhaps Bukowski’s disputed report is the reason her misdemeanor charge was elevated to five felony counts three days after her initial arrest.
After all, at the time of the incident, police yelled at her, handcuffed her, placed her in a squad car and deleted her images. But they eventually released her without transporting her to jail where she went home and worked on her article.
However, the article was not published until Nov. 16 in The Michigan Citizen, a weekly newspaper which covers the black community, perhaps appearing on the Internet as early as Nov. 12.
And prosecutor Worthy made her decision to file felony charges against Bukowski on Nov. 7.
So where does this obvious animosity come from?
The answer might be in an article about Bukowski in Detroit’s weekly alternative newspaper, The Metro Times.
Her work has frequently focused on allegations of police misconduct. She was the first reporter to shed light on Detroit police officer Eugene Brown. In seven years, Brown shot nine people, killing three.
He subsequently became a focus of coverage in these pages and in mainstream media as the issue of questionable police shootings in Detroit came to the fore. Eventually the U.S. Justice Department stepped in and ordered the department to make changes.
Over the years Bukowski has also been critical of the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office for not bringing criminal charges against officers involved in cases where evidence indicated shootings were unwarranted.
Meanwhile, Michigan State Police Capt. Harold Love says the video from the dash-mounted camera in the patrol car proves the officers never struck the motorcyclist.
He also said he is “looking into” Bukowski’s allegations that his officers deleted her images, which shouldn’t be so hard considering the officer admitted to it in the arrest report, according to Bukowski’s attorney.
Bukowski’s preliminary examination is scheduled for Dec. 16, according to the Detroit Free Press