Yale has dropped charges of criminal trespassing against a Brazilian journalist apprehended last week for allegedly attempting to enter a private meeting and misrepresenting her intentions to Yale Police officers.
Claudia Trevisan, a Washington, D.C.-based correspondent for O Estado de S. Paulo, spent three and a half hours in a New Haven prison Thursday night, she said, after being handcuffed and escorted out of Woolsey Hall. She said she was there with the aim of securing an interview with the president of Brazil’s supreme court, Joaquim Barbosa. Barbosa was participating in the Yale Law School’s Global Constitutionalism Seminar, an annual forum and discussion with leading international jurists that is closed to the public and to the press.
When Law School Dean Robert Post LAW ’77 learned about the arrest, he “immediately requested” that Trevisan be released and that the charges be dropped, according to a statement by University Spokesman Tom Conroy.
Reached Sunday evening, Trevisan, 48, told the News that dropping the charges is “the minimum [the University] could do.” She said she was arrested without cause and subjected to “abusive behavior,” including being handcuffed, not being allowed to make a phone call and having to urinate in sight of male prison guards.
“If this is not violence, I really do not know what is,” Trevisan said. “I was shocked to know that Yale considers this kind of treatment as normal procedure.”
Trevisan said she has hired Danbury-based attorney Juliana Zach to consider her legal options. Even with the charges dropped, Trevisan said, she is worried about her “track record” and whether the incident will appear when she attempts to renew her visa.
Ricardo Gandour, the executive director of O Estado, said in a statement that the newspaper’s response has been one of “great perplexity and indignation.” He called the University’s response “disproportionate,” and said that Trevisan was arrested for doing her job.
“The journalist was fulfilling her mission as a reporter and did not trespass any formal or visible barrier,” he said.
Trevisan said she entered the Commons rotunda with no intention of trespassing. The conference with Barbosa was taking place in a second-floor room above Woolsey Hall. She had arrived in New Haven by train on Thursday afternoon in hopes of interviewing Barbosa, who has made headlines in Brazil due to his leading role in a recent corruption case. She said she called Yale Law School Spokesperson Jan Conroy earlier in the day and was told that the event was private and that she could not attend. Trevisan said she took issue with the event’s secrecy but was resigned to speaking with Barbosa on the sidewalk outside the seminar.
“His salary is paid by taxpersons in Brazil,” she said. “Everyone has the right to know where he is.”
Conroy said the Law School’s event must be kept private in order to foster “candid communication.”
Once at Woolsey Hall, Trevisan said she took the stairs to the second floor and approached a policeman to ask where the event was taking place. The policeman would not reveal information about the seminar, she said, and instead asked Trevisan to follow him downstairs, which she did. Asked what she wanted, Trevisan did not reveal that she was a journalist, which she said was “the one mistake [she] made.”
“But I don’t think I should be arrested for that,” she added.
Trevisan said she proceeded to provide her passport, in addition to her phone number, address and other information.
When she asked for her passport back — saying she would leave and wait for Barbosa outside — the policeman refused to return her passport, Trevisan said.
“I said you can’t do that, and he said yes I can,” she recounted, saying the policeman became aggressive, telling her “we know who you are, we know you are a reporter, we have your picture.”
She said the policeman’s prior knowledge of her identity “weakens the allegation that I misrepresented myself.”
The police officer handcuffed her and called over two other officers to sit with Trevisan while he checked her passport, she said.
“Because of her attempts to enter the private meeting and because she misrepresented her intentions to a police officer, Ms. Trevisan was escorted from the building and arrested for trespassing,” Conroy said. “As a matter of standard procedure, she was handcuffed.”
Conroy denied Trevisan’s claims that her passport was confiscated, or that she was otherwise improperly handled: “The Yale Police Department does not seize or confiscate passports or other identification,” he said.
Trevisan said she waited in a squad car for an hour before being transported in a police van to the New Haven Police Department at 1 Union Ave., where she was charged with first-degree criminal trespassing, fingerprinted and placed in a cell.
Once at the police station, she was not allowed to make a telephone call and was instead searched and stripped of her belongings, Trevisan said. She said the jail was like a “movie scene,” with “people screaming and banging the doors.” Trevisan said she was released three and a half hours later on a promise to appear in court and quickly left the city by train.
“I did not want to stay one minute more,” she said.
Conroy said the University acted appropriately but has decided to drop the charges. “Although the arrest for trespass was justified, the University does not plan to pursue the charge with the local prosecutor.”
Yale Law School Spokesperson Jan Conroy and Yale Police Department Assistant Chief Steven Woznyk both declined to comment, referring to Conroy’s statement instead.