‘A clear-cut case of retribution’
Progressive reporter convicted of felonies
Published May 10, 2009 4:05 PM
Freelance journalist Diane Bukowski, whose byline appears frequently in The
Michigan Citizen newspaper, was convicted May 1 on two felony charges stemming
from her involvement as a reporter on the scene of a deadly police chase in
Detroit on Nov. 4. She will be sentenced on June 1, and faces a possible
four-year prison term.
From left, City Councilwoman JoAnn
Watson, David Sole, and Diane Bukowski.
WW photo: Alan Pollock
A majority-white, suburban-based jury found Bukowski guilty of two counts of
“assaulting/resisting/obstructing” state police officers as she and
other reporters gathered to cover a police chase that resulted in the deaths of
a motorcyclist and pedestrian.
Bukowski was arrested as she attempted to photograph the grisly scene and after
a state trooper yelled to her, “Who the f**k do you think you are?”
Police confiscated her camera, deleted her photos and claimed Bukowski had
crossed yellow crime-scene tape, which she denies.
Bukowski was originally charged with one misdemeanor count of obstructing an
investigation. But Wayne County prosecutor Kym Worthy charged Bukowski with
five felony counts that totaled a possible sentence of 20 years in prison. The
prosecutor’s office later dropped three of the charges.
Bukowski and The Michigan Citizen, a Detroit-based weekly addressed to African
Americans and the progressive community, have a history of successfully
fighting for access to public documents from the prosecutor’s office in
police brutality and murder cases. Bukowski has written dozens of stories
chronicling police brutality, prosecutorial misconduct and police murders in
Detroit. She is well-known in the community as a strong anti-racist fighter and
reporter on issues involving foreclosures, utility shutoffs and union
The railroading of Bukowski on trumped-up charges aroused strong community
support from unionists, political leaders and community organizers who formed
the Committee to Defend Diane Bukowski and Freedom of the Press. Bukowski and
her supporters say this is a clear-cut case of retribution by the cops and
prosecutor for her role in exposing the many injustices of the criminal justice
Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Michael Hathaway entertained a motion from
Assistant Prosecutor Thomas Trzcinski to “preclude argument, the asking
of questions, and the introduction of any other evidence purporting to show
that defendant was acting in her capacity as a reporter during the events in
question.” Hathaway partially granted the motion in what Bukowski and her
supporters regard as a clear violation of the First Amendment.
Bukowski stated in a May 3 e-mail: “The judge informed the prosecutor and
my attorney both in chambers and on the record that [state] trooper Eric
Byerly, who erased two photos from my camera, had committed a crime and should
take the Fifth Amendment. However, after Byerly nonetheless testified in detail
regarding this destruction of evidence, neither the judge nor the prosecutor
took the appropriate actions against him.”
“Five state troopers committed perjury on the stand in my case,”
Bukowski told the audience at a May 1 forum sponsored by the Michigan Campaign
for Justice. “Prosecutor Kym Worthy suborned that perjury,” she
stated. Raw footage from a Fox 2 News video was shown three times to the jury;
it did not show Bukowski in any manner resisting, assaulting or obstructing the
The Michigan statute on impeding a police investigation includes the mere
“opposing” of the police as grounds for felony charges. This
onerous law subjects anyone to arrest and felony charges who in any way
challenges the police.
“I’m a felon now,” said Bukowski. “This is the price
you pay when you stand up against such monsters.” She called for a
federal investigation of the prosecutor’s office. (Michigan Messenger,
A meeting to organize further support for Bukowski and her appeal will take
place May 7 at the offices of The Michigan Citizen. Every anti-racist and
progressive activist in Michigan has a stake in the final outcome of this case.
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