a staff writer at the Santa Fe Reporter, has been indicted by a federal
grand jury on charges that he participated in a riot while working as a journalist during protests in Washington, DC on Inauguration Day.
Cantú faces eight felony counts—including inciting a riot,
rioting, conspiracy to riot and five counts of destruction of property. The
grand jury handed up the indictment last week.
On January 20, a collection of DC police and federal law
enforcement officers arrested more than 200 people in connection with a rally
that began as a protest, but turned destructive as several people broke the
windows of businesses, damaged vehicles and allegedly caused a police officer
to break his wrist.
Cantú was not named specifically by prosecutors as the cause of
any of the destruction, as some defendants were. Instead, the indictment named
him as being present while the damage happened. The arrests have been
criticized by the American Civil Liberties Union, other civil rights groups and
newspapers as overly broad and lacking hard evidence.
Video from the conservative media group The Rebel shows glimpses of Cantú off to the side of
the protests with other journalists, washing what appears to be pepper spray
from his eyes. He’s standing
next to a conservative journalist as she narrates the scene.
Julie Ann Grimm, editor and publisher of SFR,
said the indictment will not affect Cantú’s status at the newspaper, where he’s worked since April.
is an experienced journalist who disclosed this pending case during the hiring
process. We stand behind him and look forward to his continued good work in his
new home in Santa Fe.”
Neither Cantú nor his attorneys at the DC firm of Gibson and Dunn
would comment on the indictment. Cantú will be arraigned in Washington, DC on
Friday, June 9. He has previously said he will plead not guilty.
“Anyone out there who was not involved in rioting shouldn’t be prosecuted,” Gregg Leslie,
legal defense director for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press,
tells SFR. “That’s the
amazing thing about the DC protests, is that they know that a handful of people
threw bricks through windows and one person threw something at an officer. And
they arrested over 200 people. They know that everyone they arrested was not
participating in a crime.”
Leslie noted that the US Attorney’s office has not said why it dropped charges against some
journalists while pursuing charges against Cantú and a photographer who was
livestreaming the event. Bill Miller, a spokesman for the US Attorney in Washington DC told SFR in an email, "We typically do not comment on pending cases and have no further comment on the felony rioting matters."
In addition to covering the protests as part of his role as senior editor for the online magazine The New Inquiry, Cantú initially offered to write a firsthand account of his experience for VICE before deciding against it in light of possible
charges. Cantú has written for VICE, The Intercept, The Nation
and other publications.
Cantú is the last person to face indictment out of more than 200
people being prosecuted by the US Attorney for the District of Columbia. He is
one of two journalists whose charges have not been dropped by acting US
Attorney Channing Phillips, an Obama appointee still awaiting US Senate
Video from The Rebel (Cantú at lower right of screen at 8:19):
Santa Fe Reporter
Letters to the Editor
Mail letters to PO Box 4910 Santa Fe, NM 87502 or email them to editor[at]sfreporter.com. Letters (no more than 200 words) should refer to speciﬁc articles in the Reporter. Letters will be edited for space and clarity.