Student journalist spends night in jail


Collegian regional editor arrested for taking photo of police in parking lot





COLORADO -- Denver police arrested a student journalist\nin September as he tried to take a photo of a friend being handcuffed\nduring the chaotic aftermath of a football game between Colorado\nState and the University of Colorado.

After Colorado State's upset of the University of Colorado,\nDenver police teargassed hundreds of football fans at Mile High\nStadium, whom police said were hurling trash at University of\nColorado players as they left the field and threatening to tear\ndown the stadium's goal posts.

Colorado State junior Nikolaus Olsen, regional editor of The\nRocky Mountain Collegian, said he was taking pictures in the\nstadium's stands until he was overcome by tear gas and pepper\nspray. To escape the fumes, he and a friend fled to the parking\nlot, where they saw a group of police officers. They followed\nthem to find out what was happening.

One of the officers told Olsen and his friend to exit the parking\nlot. As they turned to leave, Olsen's friend, Doug Blake, asked\nthe officers why they had teargassed the crowd. The officers then\narrested Blake for failing to obey a lawful order and trespassing.\nAs they handcuffed Blake, Olsen started snapping pictures-until\nhe was arrested, too. Olsen said he told the officers he was a\nreporter for the Collegian.

Olsen said one of the officers asked him, "Did you get\nyour story? How's that for freedom of the press?"

Olsen and Blake were taken to the Denver County Jail, where\nthey were held for 16 hours. Both pleaded guilty to the charges\nwithout consulting an attorney. The judge released both men, but\nfined Blake $125.

Olsen said he and Blake pleaded guilty because they believed\nthat would be the fastest way to get out of jail.

"In my mind, at that point, I knew I had done what they\nsaid," Olsen said. "I didn't know that anyone knew I\nwas in jail because I hadn't been able to make a phone call. ...\nI knew that pleading guilty would get me out and pleading not\nguilty would keep me in longer, so I just opted to get out because\nI'd never been thrown in jail before."

But Olsen said he regrets pleading guilty to the charges. He\nis trying to withdraw his plea and hopes to be found not guilty\nof the charges by a jury. He then plans to sue the Denver police\ndepartment for unlawful arrest.

"I honestly felt like I was in the position of my job\nand not adding to any sort of confrontation with the cops,"\nOlsen said. "They knew I was with the press because they\nasked for my employer"


reports, Winter 1999-2000