Charge may be purged in Mo. photojournalist case

MISSOURI -- A Missouri student photojournalist has been given a chance to have all charges dismissed after being cited for his conduct while photographing a fire.

Andrew Worrall was summoned to appear January 12, 2010, in Columbia Municipal Court on charges of being a disorderly person at a fire on September 10, 2009, in Columbia, Missouri.

Judge Robert D. Aulgur entered a suspended sentence at the January 12 hearing according to Worrall's attorney, Russell Still.

"In order to have a conviction you have to have a final order of the court, of the judge, and the judge is saying he's not doing that, he's not imposing any sentence," said Still.

Worrall was placed on two years of temporary probation.

"The case is just held there to see what happens and if he [Worrall] doesn't have any violations, which I don't think he will, then the case is dismissed," said Still, who represented Worrall pro-bono as a Student Press Law Center referral attorney.

During the hearing, Columbia Fire Captain Larry Curtis testified that the assistant fire chief told Worrall to move back away from the scene to where the rest of the public was standing. Worrall moved back a few feet and the assistant fire chief asked him to move further back and Worrall said he did not have to, said Still.

Worrall testified that his response to the assistant fire chief was that he had the right to be there.

"If journalists have the perception that their access is being unnecessarily restricted by law enforcement on the scene, the right response is to object once, then comply and have the conversation later with the officer's superiors," said Adam Goldstein, attorney advocate of the Student Press Law Center.

Worrall is a photojournalism student at the University of Missouri, senior staff photographer of the university's newspaper, The Maneater, and a trained volunteer firefighter.

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