Charges against Brazilian journalist dropped

At a Friday hearing, all charges were dropped against the Brazilian journalist arrested eight days ago.
At a Friday hearing, all charges were dropped against the Brazilian journalist arrested eight days ago.

Eight days after she was arrested for trespassing at Yale, Brazilian journalist Claudia Trevisan was cleared of all charges at a Friday hearing and assured that the incident will be erased from her criminal record.

Trevisan, a Washington, D.C.-based correspondent for O Estado de S. Paulo, was arrested on Sept. 26 after entering the Commons Rotunda in hopes of tracking down Brazilian Supreme Court President Joaquim Barbosa, who was participating in a Yale Law School seminar on the second floor of the building. She was handcuffed and taken in a paddy wagon to the New Haven Police Department, where she was locked up for three and a half hours before being released at the request of Yale Law School Dean Robert Post LAW ’77.

Though she maintains she was arrested without cause and subject to mistreatment by Yale Police officers, Trevisan said she is satisfied with the dismissal of the charges and will not seek further action against the University.

“I’m not interested in being wrapped up in a court case that could go on for months,” Trevisan said. “I have no interest in taking any action against Yale or the police.”

Following her release, Trevisan said she feared the arrest would continue to haunt her, complicating her ability to renew her work visa and reside in the United States, where she arrived just two months ago after a five-year stint reporting in China.

But Friday’s hearing in New Haven Superior Court assuaged that fear, as it formally closed the case and confirmed that the State would not prosecute for criminal trespassing.

“When I ask for a visa, I need to say whether I was ever arrested,” Trevisan said. “And I was worried at first I would have to answer ‘Yes.’”

Trevisan’s lawyer, Westport-based attorney Stephen Nevas, said the Supervisory Assistant State’s attorney David Strollo declined to prosecute at the behest of the University. The record of the arrest will therefore be erased, pursuant to Connecticut statute that permits criminal expungement if charges are dropped or a case is otherwise dismissed, Nevas said.

The nonprofit advocacy group Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press requested that he represent Trevisan, Nevas said. Before entering private practice, Nevas was the executive director and senior researcher at the Yale Law School’s Law and Media program.

Yale did not have counsel present at the hearing but submitted a letter to the court supporting the removal of the arrest from Trevisan’s record.

“I write to confirm that Yale University supports Claudia Trevisan’s request … that the record of her arrest on Sept. 26, 2013 for trespass and proceedings related thereto be permanently expunged, so that the incident on Sept. 26, 2013 will not interfere with her ability to continue traveling to the United States for her work as a journalist,” Dorothy Robinson, Yale’s vice president and general counsel, wrote in the letter, addressed to Nevas and submitted to New Haven Superior Court judge Raheem Mullins.

Steven Duke, a Yale Law School professor and expert on criminal procedure, said he doubts the arrest “will have any serious adverse consequences” for Trevisan.

He added that the arrest seemed lawful given Trevisan’s actions, which he said made her “guilty of trespassing.” He said the circumstances further suggested Trevisan was a “security risk,” meriting the arrest and further investigation.

Nevas declined to pass judgment on the actions taken by Yale Police officers but said the arrest was “the result of a series of miscommunications and misunderstandings.”

“I believe that the University is as happy to put this behind them as we are,” he added.

The result of the hearing was “the resolution the University expected based on its decision not to pursue the charge,” University spokesman Tom Conroy said in a Sunday email.

“The University has no problem with it,” he added.

In statements last weekend, Conroy said the police action was “justified” given Trevisan’s “attempts to enter the private meeting and because she misrepresented her intentions to a police officer.” He said she was handcuffed “as a matter of standard procedure.”

Trevisan called the arrest an act of “violence” and said she was not trying to forcibly enter the seminar but merely to find out Barbosa’s whereabouts to interview him afterwards about a high-profile Brazilian corruption case. She said she told the arresting officer she would wait outside to conduct the interview, but that he arrested her anyway.

“I just want to put it behind me now,” she said. “I think being a victim of violence is unfortunate, but we’re journalists and we see these problems all over the world.”

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.

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