Journalist Handcuffed, Arrested at Yale Law School

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Sept. 28 2013 3:47 PM

Brazilian Journalist Handcuffed, Arrested at Yale Law School

Reporters beware: if you try to interview a high-profile personality who is visiting Yale Law School you best tread carefully unless you want to end up behind bars. Claudia Trevisan, a US correspondent for Brazil’s O Estado de Sao Paulo newspaper, writes a post on her blog telling the story of how she ended up in a jail cell when she went to Yale Law School Thursday to try to speak with the president of Brazil’s Supreme Court. University officials told Trevisan she couldn’t attend the seminar where he was scheduled to speak. Fine, she said, I’ll go and stand on the sidewalk to try to talk to him when he leaves. Pretty standard stuff for a reporter.

Problem with Trevisan’s plan was that the seminar was so hush-hush it was difficult to even figure out where it was taking place. At one point she entered the Yale Law School concert hall that was teeming with people, but no security. When she found a police officer she approached him to ask about the location of the seminar. “My intention was to make sure and wait to the minister outside. I did not attempt to enter the room where the event was happening,” she writes. “The policeman did not answer my question and asked me to follow him, which I did.”

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Officers proceed to interrogate Trevisan but also hold on to her passport. The officers then told Trevisan she would be arrested for criminal trespassing, claiming she had been warned "several times" she couldn't be there, which she denis. Trevisan was then handcuffed and placed in a police vehicle and was transferred to a holding cell at a police station, where she was detained for almost four hours.

“My main doubt,” Trevisan writes, “is why I was arrested, if I followed the policeman, did not offer any resistance and was willing to leave the building. As far as I know, being a journalist is not a crime under America law.”

UPDATE, Sept. 28 at 7:30 p.m.: The Guardian obtained a statement from Yale University that claims the reporter misrepresented herself but says it doesn’t plan to file charges:

Before she came to the Yale campus on September 26 to attempt to interview Justice Barbosa, Ms Claudia Trevisan was told that the Global Constitutionalism Seminar attended by Justice Barbosa was a private event closed to the public and the media, and that she was not permitted on Yale property.
She came onto Yale property, entered the law school without permission, and proceeded to enter another building where the attendees of the seminar were meeting. When asked why she was in the building, she stated that she was looking for a friend she was supposed to meet. She was arrested for trespassing. The police followed normal procedures and Ms Trevisan was not mistreated in any way.
Although the arrest for trespass was justified, the university does not plan to pursue the charge with the local prosecutor. The law school and Yale University accommodate hundreds of journalists in the course of a year at public campus events and for interviews with members of the Yale community and visitors. As with all journalists, Ms Trevisan is welcome to attend any public event at Yale and speak with anyone who wishes to grant her an interview.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.