September 3, 2011 | 10:51am
Following my column this week regarding the Associated Press' flubbed piece on the sentences received by 13 anti-SB 1070 protesters arrested outside the Fourth Avenue Jail on July 29, 2010, attorney Antonio Bustamante, one of the lawyers for the defendants, wrote the AP asking for a correction or retraction of its inaccurate account.
Bustamante detailed at great length and with tremendous patience why the AP story was inaccurate and why the AP should do something to remedy the situation. The demonstrators were practicing non-violent civil disobedience. None of them were "beating" on the large metal doors of Fourth Avenue's central intake before being arrested by sheriff's deputies, as the AP story reported.
For his efforts, he received a terse reply from Traci Carl, the AP's West Editor, who is based in Phoenix.
"We have looked into your concerns, but have no reason to doubt the validity of the article," she wrote. "Thanks for your interest."
As Bustamante stated in his reply, which is reprinted below, Carl should have reason to doubt the validity of the reporting, but I get the distinct impression that Carl just doesn't give a flip. Her "can't be bothered" attitude flies in the face of the very "news values and principles" posted on AP's Web site, where it states that, "we abhor inaccuracies, carelessness, bias or distortions."
It's important to note that the MCSO's own report on the arrests says nothing about protesters "beating" on the large bay doors of the central intake. And as Bustamante and Sean Larkin, another lawyer for the defendants, have pointed out to me, if this had happened, you can be sure that the prosecutors would have tried to use it against the activists.
But the prosecutors didn't, because it didn't happen.
"The protesters showed passive resistance to the orders [to disperse]," sheriff's office Lieutenant C. Brackman writes in his summary, "and it appeared they wanted to get arrested."
In other words, no door-banging needed.
In my column, I also took issue with the characterization of the number of demonstrators on the streets that day being in the "dozens." In reality, there were hundreds, and it's not just me saying so. The headline for the Arizona Republic's July 30, 2010 piece on the protests reads, "Hundreds protest as law takes effect."
The AP's recent item on the sentencing of the Fourth Avenue 13 was reproduced online and in print in numerous publications nationwide: Huffington Post, Salon.com, Arizona Republic, KTAR, Arizona Capitol Times, The Charlotte Observer, The Idaho Statesman, and CBSAtlanta.com, along with many, many others.
It may have even gone international, as far as I know. I stopped Googling the story after clicking through several pages of links.
This repetition is one reason why the AP's errors should be taken seriously. Also, it's an insult to these demonstrators in particular to suggest that they were anything but non-violent.
Two reporters contributed to this short, 362-word piece: Amanda Lee Myers and Michelle Price.
It's the job of their editors to correct factual mistakes.
Indeed, the intransigence of the AP's middle management in this instance is telling. I spoke to the AP's Phoenix desk about the item prior to my column running and encountered the same stubborn indifference. Prior to this, e-mails sent to one of the reporters and to the Arizona AP at large were ignored.
I have no faith that Carl will suddenly experience an epiphany and act as she should. She is a gatekeeper for the hive, and as such, it does not behoove her to admit error. To do so undermines the larger media entity and the Borg mindset which is essential to its continued existence.
Still, it's worthy to resist the Borg, and to throw a wrench of doubt into the AP's presumption of infallibility.
So, if you are so inclined, I encourage you to e-mail Carl at TCarl@ap.org, the Arizona AP at email@example.com, reporter Amanda Myers at firstname.lastname@example.org, and the AP in general at email@example.com, and ask, simply, why the AP refuses to correct the obvious inaccuracies in its story.
Should you receive any replies, feel free to share them in the comments below.
From: Antonio Bustamante [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Thursday, September 01, 2011 1:26 PM
To: 'Carl, Traci'
Subject: RE: Inaccuracies in Article re Arizona Immigration Protesters
You state you "have no reason to doubt the validity of the article." (underlineation added). I provided authoritative "reason to doubt" its validity. It is called evidence. It is frustrating that no information is provided to support the claim that there is no reason to doubt. The response sent to me today is dismissive. It is also unappreciated.
The Associated Press Statement of News Values and Principles appearing on your company's webpage states that the "men and women of The Associated Press . . . have gone to great lengths . . . to ensure that the news [is] reported quickly, accurately and honestly." (underlineation added). The inaccuracy pointed-out in the article in question is patent, yet your e-mail leaves the impression that the A.P. does not want not correct the false information put out to readers. This is inconsistent with other claims made in the statement of A.P values and principles, e.g., "[W]e abhor inaccuracies, carelessness, bias or distortions." (bold letters and underlineation added). Finally, the publicly heralded A.P. values and principles states, "When mistakes are made, they must be corrected - fully, quickly and ungrudgingly." (underlineaton added).
Please live up to the standards of the journalistic profession and those of your news organization. "Ungrudgingly" correct the inaccuracy that has been brought to your attention.
Antonio D. Bustamante
Attorney at Law
From: Carl, Traci [mailto:TCarl@ap.org]
Sent: Thursday, September 01, 2011 8:41 AM
Cc: Stokes, Jack; Colford, Paul
Subject: FW: Inaccuracies in Article re Arizona Immigration Protesters
We have looked into your concerns, but have no reason to doubt the validity of the article. Thanks for your interest.
The Associated Press
From: Antonio Bustamante [mailto:]
Posted At: Wednesday, August 31, 2011 12:15 PM
Posted To: PHE - Phoenix, AZ Bureau Mailbox
Conversation: Inaccuracies in Article re Arizona Immigration Protesters
Subject: Inaccuracies in Article re Arizona Immigration Protesters
I am one of the four attorneys who represented protesters about whom the Associated Press issued a piece on August 23, 2011, titled 1 Day in Jail for 13 Arizona Immigration Protesters I must point out a serious factual inaccuracy. The fourth paragraph states that protesters were "beating on a metal door [of the Fourth Avenue Jail in Phoenix]." This is not what happened, and there was no evidence during the trials that such things ever occurred.
The Defendants conducted what Judge David Seyer described at sentencing as a peaceful demonstration. They sat or stood in front of a large sally port door located on the north side of the Fourth Avenue Jail in downtown Phoenix. Five of the defendants were chained to each other. The others stood with them or sat in front of them. The defendants were arrested after (1) Maricopa County deputy sheriffs made announcements that they leave and (2) the defendants did not comply. It is just not a fact that anyone banged on the sally port door or any other jail door. Had this happened, any perpetrator(s) would have immediately been stopped or arrested by the many deputies present.
The persons who stood trial were ordained members of the clergy, university graduate and undergraduate students, educators, social workers and community organizers. At sentencing, Judge Seyer commended them for their courtroom demeanor and for the peaceful nature of their act of social disobedience. He denied requests by prosecuting attorneys that stiff fines be imposed. He stated on the record that he saw no purpose in sentencing the 13 convicted defendants to anything harsher than the time they had already served in jail upon being arrested. A magistrate released them without bond several hours after their arrests. Although the sentence for each of the 13 was for one day jail, Judge Seyer credited as a full day the hours they had spent in post-arrest custody.
The Fourth Avenue Jail is where police agencies in Maricopa County take arrested persons to be booked and readied for their first court appearance. The presence of the protester-defendants in front of the jail's north sally port caused law enforcement officers to access the jail through another means of approach on the jail's south side where police vehicles normally exit the facility.
The protest took place on July 29, 2010, the date portions of SB 1070, Arizona's sweeping immigration law, took effect. The most controversial parts of the law had been enjoined the previous day by the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona. Of the 43 persons arrested during the Fourth Avenue Jail protest, only 15 stood trial. All of the other 28 cases were dismissed before trial. Seven of the 28 defendants whose cases were dismissed were reporters and photojournalists just doing their jobs. Three of the 28 were attorneys present as legal observers. Two of the 15 who were tried were found not guilty. Thirteen were convicted but are appealing their convictions.
On behalf of the good people I represented at trial and continue to represent on appeal, I respectfully ask that a retraction or correction be printed by the Associated Press to remedy the misstatement that the protesters were "beating a metal [or any jail] door."
Thank you and I look forward to your reply.
Antonio D. Bustamante
Attorney at Law
1001 N. Central Avenue, Ste. 660
Phoenix, AZ 85004