Charges dropped vs. Arizona reporter arrested at Raytheon protest

An Arizona journalist who was arrested while covering an anti-Gaza war protest in Tucson last month had the charges against her dismissed Thursday, as the Pima County Attorney’s Office exercised “prosecutorial discretion” in the case.

Alisa Reznick of KJZZ was handcuffed and taken away by Pima County Sheriff’s Department deputies, despite identifying herself as a journalist, while covering a November 30 pro-Palestinian demonstration against military contractor Raytheon.

Reznick was released several hours later, after being taken — along
with 25 others arrested — to PCSD’s San Xavier District Office and cited
for criminal trespassing.

The Pima County Attorney’s Office filed a motion to dismiss the case against the reporter on Wednesday. Justice of the Peace Ray Carroll signed off on an order dropping the charges and all warrants against Reznick related to it on Thursday morning.

A court hearing in Reznick’s case had been scheduled for the first week of January. The charges against the protesters who were arrested remain pending.

“It feels really good to get a charge dismissed that really should never have been filed,” Reznick told the Sentinel on Thursday. “And, I hope this decision helps the Sheriff’s Department think hard about their interactions with journalists. It’s really important for the press to have access to police activities,” she said.

Reznick said she was arrested two minutes after a deputy told her to leave the property. While she was heading to her car, she paused to take photos as deputies began arresting protesters.

Deputies took Reznick into custody as she took photos of other deputies making arrests.

“It was always clear who I was, and what I was doing,” she said. Despite a clear press pass and her reporting gear, including a camera and professional-level audio recorder, the deputy chose to arrest her.

“Journalists should be afforded the access to document the Sheriff Department’s actions and our community,” she said.

Reznick added she was “grateful” the County Attorney’s Office chose to drop the charges against her.

PCAO didn’t elaborate on the decision to dismiss the case.

According to law enforcement and eyewitness accounts, and video and
photos taken by protestors at the scene last month, Reznick was arrested as
deputies told protestors to leave property outside a Raytheon building
at the University of Arizona Tech Park on the Southeast Side.

Reznick was wearing her press pass and carrying reporting gear and a
camera as deputies took her into custody around 7:30 a.m. Her arrest
came despite being clearly identified as a working reporter, her move to
leave the property as requested, and PCSD policies that lay out
allowances for journalists undertaking their duties.

Sheriff Chris
Nanos told the Sentinel that day that he was not aware of his department’s
written policies regarding “reasonable access” for reporters at crime

Press advocates welcomed the determination to not prosecute the case Thursday.

“Obviously, I’m pleased someone showed some common sense and dismissed the charges, but that decision doesn’t fix the fact the deputy interfered with a reporter doing her job,” said Mickey H. Osterreicher, general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association.

“The whole idea of these kinds of arrests is to stop a reporter from doing what the officers don’t want them do, which is cover the actions of officers as they are engaged in their duties,” he said.

Under the law, Reznick could sue the Sheriff’s Department in court under violations of 42 USC 1983 because the deputy deprived her of her civil rights under color of law, he said.

The deputy deprived Reznick of her rights under three constitutional provisions: the 1st, 4th and 14th amendments, Osterreicher said. He noted under the 14th Amendment, Reznick’s rights to due process and equal protection were violated because when the deputies chose to arrest her, he did not arrest another reporter who recorded the incident.

“Courts regularly look down on this kind of action under the 1st Amendment because it’s prior restraint,” he added. “The deputy stopped a reporter from doing her job.”

“But, the problem with this is while the officers or the department might learn a lesson, the taxpayers end up covering the cost,” he said. He said departments need to maintain strict policies, and provide adequate training for officers on how to engage with reporters.

Osterreicher noted the NPPA was one of several organizations that pushed against an Arizona bill in 2022 which attempted to ban people from recording police within eight feet of “law enforcement activity.”

While former Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed HB 2319 into law, it was immediately undone when the bill’s sponsor John Kavanaugh refused to defend it, and a judge ruled it unconstitutional this summer.

Michel Marizco, KJZZ’s Fronteras Desk senior editor, said he was “pleased that Pima County Attorney Laura Conover chose not to pursue this case.”

“That was the right path forward given that Alisa Reznick was clearly identified as a KJZZ News journalist gathering the news and in fact, had personally spoken with deputies just moments before,” he said in a written reaction to the news.

“Arresting journalists in the midst of doing their jobs is a dangerous practice that prevents the public from understanding what’s happening in their community,” Marizco said.

In one video, which was also posted on YouTube, Reznick can be heard
explaining to a deputy that she is a reporter and that she was heading
to her car as they had instructed.

“I’m a reporter,” she told a PCSD deputy who was grasping her arm.

“You’re under arrest,” he told her.

“I’m going to my car, which is right there,” she said.

“You’ve had plenty of time to go to your car.”

“I’m not even involved in this,” she explained.

Holding the reporter’s camera, the deputy asked the person taking the
video — which was posted on Twitter, the social media platform that now
has an X for a logo, by the leftist activist journalism group Unicorn
Riot —”Can you grab this? I don’t want to break it.”

As the deputy snapped Reznick into handcuffs, another approached. As
she explained that she had been heading to her car, he said, “We told
you to leave, and you remained for several more minutes.”

What the Devil won’t tell you: Reporter arrested by Pima County sheriff’s deputies was right where she was supposed to be

Unicorn Riot posted
online that the group of about 60 protestors had blocked the roadway
into the Raytheon site near South Rita Road and Interstate 10 for about
an hour Thursday morning, Nov. 30.

The person who took the video that was posted by the nonprofit group,
which often focuses on protests and demonstrations, was not among those
who were arrested, despite being in the same place at the same time as
the working reporter who was handcuffed and led away, sources told the

A spokesperson for the group Tucson Coalition for Palestine said they
arrived around 7 a.m. to block the entrances to the UA Tech Park as
part of a protest against Raytheon, IBM and Citigroup for their role in
Israel’s military campaign in Gaza. Raytheon Missile Systems is a
defense contracting giant that has multiple sites in Tucson.

The University of Arizona and Raytheon are two of Tucson’s biggest employers, they said.

“If our leaders won’t take action to stop the siege, for today we’ll
do just that,” said the activist, who refused to be identified by
anything more than Aileen.

Another one of the demonstrators, Julius Schlossburg, an independent
professional photographer, was there to document the protest as well as
take part. He was not arrested.

Reznick declined to speak on the record with the Sentinel last month, as she had not yet spoken with an attorney about the incident.

Original report: Pima sheriff’s deputies arrest reporter covering protest against Raytheon

“The arrest of a member of the press is deeply concerning,” the ACLU of Arizona
said last month. “Arresting journalists while doing their job to keep the public
informed is a blatant violation of their constitutional rights.”

“Multiple demonstrators entered private property, blocked the
roadways, and prevented employees from entering and leaving the
facility. Despite Raytheon and law enforcement requests to leave the
private property, many refused, and 26 people were arrested for criminal
trespass,” Deputy Keith Bee said in a news release the day of the arrests.

“Deputies remained on scene to ensure that order was maintained,
while the rest of the demonstrators exercised their First Amendment
rights to peacefully have their voices heard on public property without
any additional violations being observed,” he wrote.

PCSD initially told the Sentinel that “the names of the persons
arrested are not being released,” but when questioned as to the
justification for withholding that information, eventually sent the list
of individuals taken into custody. They were each arrested on a charge
of 3rd degree criminal trespass under ARS 13-1502A1 (Case number

“The journalist arrested was requested to vacate the private property
and refused to comply,” Deputy Adam Schoonover told the Sentinel that day.

Asked to detail PCSD’s
policies regarding dealing with journalists, Schoonover emailed a
screenshot with a portion of a page from the department’s General
Orders, but left out a section detailing access for reporters during

The emailed portion said:

No arbitrary or unnecessary obstacles shall be imposed on news person(s) at any time by any member of the department.

a. No department member shall restrict members of the press or public
from photographing or filming events, which occur in public places or
in public view; however, camera operators shall not be permitted to
physically interfere with official departmental activity.

When deputies are in a private dwelling or other area not generally
open to the public, permission for news media access must be obtained
from the citizen holding authority over the premises. If no such person
is available, permission for such access may be granted by the deputy
in charge.

Not included in that statement from PCSD was the next section, on the same page:

News persons shall be allowed reasonable access to scenes
of crimes or incidents except where such access is prohibited by
evidentiary need or by the presence of grave physical danger.

Sheriff Chris Nanos
told the Sentinel on Nov. 30 that Reznick told deputies that she had permission to
be on the property when she did not comply with requests to leave.

None of the video of the incident includes such a statement by the
reporter. The Sentinel has requested PCSD’s bodycam footage of the
incident. It has not yet been provided.

Raytheon representatives asked PCSD to tell the demonstrators to
leave the property, Nanos said. The area in which Reznick was arrested
is a paved section of road on the Tech Park campus, much of which is so
open to the public that it appears in Google Street View.

The UA Science and Technology Park property is owned by the Arizona
Board of Regents. The government leases a building there to Raytheon.

The Tech Park is run by the nonprofit Campus Research Corporation. UA
representatives said the lease between CRC — set up by ABOR in 1994 to
operate “solely to assiste the Arizona Board of Regents” in the UA’s
educational and research mission — and Raytheon is “confidential.” They
declined to provide the lease between the state agency and CRC for the
operation of the park.

Several of the protestors had left their cars on the street that
wraps around the property. Reznick was parked in a lot for visitors to
9040 S. Rita Rd., the UA’s Center for Innovation also located at the
Tech Park. Deputies said they could go to their cars and drive out but
needed to leave.

“Some still refused to leave,” Nanos said during an interview the day of the protest. He said his deputies understood “this was high priority” and they “kept their cool.”

“They have a job to do; they asked people to leave four or five
times,” he said. Reznick and others refused, said the sheriff. “She gave
us very little choice to do something else.”

“We try to handle this as low-level as we can. We have to have
respect for both sides of the protest,” said the sheriff, an elected

Reznick was halted by a deputy as she walked in the direction of her
car, and arrested as she repeatedly said she was leaving, the video
showed. PCSD Lt. Brett Bernstein told the Sentinel that he didn’t have
any explanation for why she was arrested, but the person connected with
the activist group who filmed her arrest was not. The lieutenant said he
would have to defer to the deputies at the scene regarding their
decisions. The Sentinel will seek the full set of police reports about
the incident from PCSD, which should include the deputies’ accounts of
each arrest made.

When a Sentinel reporter laid out the department’s General Orders
regarding the press, Nanos said “this is the
first I heard anything like that.”

“We don’t ask you where you work,” Nanos said. “I don’t think any of
my deputies ever go and say ‘where do you work?’ and and it really
doesn’t matter,” he said. “If you’re a reporter or you’re an off-duty
police officer,” he said, the deputies are going to ask people to leave.
“You’ve got to respect the wishes of the property owner and they’ve
asked you to leave the premises.”

“I don’t believe she gave us any other option,” he said, adding
ultimately, Reznick and KJZZ could “take this matter to the courts.”

When asked if the department had a policy to avoid arresting
reporters, Nanos said, “It’s really about being reasonable. I don’t care
whether you’re a journalist or not, if I’m a law enforcement officer
working in my official capacity, and you’re sitting there as a
journalist, you know, everybody has some responsibilities here.”

“So I don’t think I need a policy to tell you treat the press this
way or that way, rather we treat our citizenry, no matter where they
work, with respect,” he said.

PCSD’s General Orders include three pages detailing regulations for how department staff must handle relationships with “legitimate reporters.”

Attempts to curtail reporter access

There have been attempts to put legal restrictions on the ability of journalists to report on police.

In June 2022, former Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed a bill into law
making it illegal to video officers within eight feet of them at work.

Introduced by state Rep. John Kavanaugh months earlier, HB 2319 made it
“unlawful for a person to knowingly make a video recording of law
enforcement activity if the person making the video recording does not
have the permission of a law enforcement officer and is within eight
feet of where the law enforcement activity is occurring.”

People who violate the law could have faced a misdemeanor charge and up to 30 days in jail.

Even before the bill was signed by Ducey, a Republican like Kavanaugh,
civil rights groups and reporting organizations, including the National
Press Photographers Association said the measure was unconstitutional.
After it was signed, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Arizona
Broadcasters Association, the Arizona Press Association and newspapers
and TV stations from around the state filed a lawsuit. Weeks before it
took effect, U.S. District Judge John Tuchi issued a preliminary
injunction, writing the bill violated a “‘clearly established’ right to
‘record law enforcement officers engaged in the exercise of their
official duties in public places’ under the First Amendment.”

After Tuchi’s decision, Kavanaugh struggled to find lawyers willing to defend the law, and state and local officials also refused to back the law, leaving Tuchi’s decision in place.