Charges dropped against reporter accused of photographing crash site
The charges against Damien Leist, the reporter accused of illegally photographing a plane crash site, have been dismissed.
The charges alleged Leist photographed human remains at a grave site based on the footage that was taken from the scene of a plane crash near Boyne City that killed two men.
"The Charlevoix County Sheriff's Department and the Charlevoix County Prosecuting Attorney's Office respect the First Amendment rights of the news media to cover newsworthy events, and any media reports to the contrary are mistaken," Prosecutor Allen Telgenhof said. "In this case, the Sheriff's Department cooperated with a number of media outlets that were on the site, and made provisions to enable them to do their job. Unfortunately, Mr. Leist was not at the scene at the time this was done."
The prosecutor reports Leist arrived on the site hours later. The site was still subject to restricted access as part of the investigation, the prosecutor reports.
The prosecutor says a misunderstanding led to Leist getting access to the site and shooting video footage of areas he "should not have had access to."
The Sheriff's Department, the Prosecutor's Office and Leist have all agreed to work together to ensure these misunderstandings do not happen in the future.
"I deeply respect the hard work of our friends in law enforcement, and I appreciate that they need to secure accident scenes as part of their investigation," said Leist. "The last thing I wanted to do was disturb the scene or their work. My only objective was to report on this tragic accident, just like my fellow journalists had done earlier that morning. My heart goes out to the families of the men who perished in the crash."
The incident happened on Jan. 6 near Boyne City. Two men, one of which was the owner and pilot, were killed.