Update: Trespassing charge against Ethan Welty dropped

I just heard some great news from our friend Ethan Welty who we wrote about in April after he was arrested in Colorado after an environmental protest. As of this week, the charges against him have been dropped. At the time I wrote,

Shortly after the four who had trespassed on the plant’s property were arrested and escorted out police approached Welty, who was on property outside of the power plant, and arrested him. All five were charged with 2nd Degree Criminal trespass, which carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a $750 fine. Welty is trying to set the record straight, as media is reporting that simply five were arrested at the protest and no one (including the police) is acknowledging that he was there covering the event as a member of the press and that he was obviously not with the four protesters inside the plant.

The arraignments for all five arrested on that day were scheduled for June. To Welty’s knowledge, the four who had been documented trespassing on the coal pile have had their meetings rescheduled to July. Welty had his arraignment rescheduled after a telephone meeting between the District Attorney and his attorney, who is a University of Colorado professor who took the case pro-bono. Following this meeting the DA dismissed the charges. Welty provided this run-down of the reasons:

– the DA, not yet having reviewed the case, was assuming that I had been on the coal pile, so my attorney asks the DA to take a closer look at my case, sending a few of my pictures and mentioning I have several testimonies from witnesses present during the action
– the DA proceeded to contact the police, who informed her that no officers had seen me trespass, and that they had not recorded the name of the Excel Energy security guard who had pointed me out
– with no evidence against me other than the word of an unnamed Excel employee, the DA decided to dismiss my charges rather than to bring my case to trial

This is great news and we are happy for Welty. However he has mentioned that his next step will “be to find a civil (rather than criminal) attorney to scrub official records of my arrest, which to my surprise does not happen automatically when charges are lifted.” There also remains the faulty news accounts of his arrest which we discussed in our original post and were picked up by other websites including re: photo and the always troubling and enlightening Photography is Not a Crime blog.

As well we should mention that Welty has been incredibly busy lately even besides his legal issues. He recently had the cover image of Backpacker Magazine, and was interviewed by the magazine itself to tell you how he did it. He also won an International Conservation Photo Award for an image he made in the North Cascades of our home state of Washington. Oh, and he wrote:

Meanwhile, I’m involved in (too) many projects. In Boulder County, partnering up with photographer Morgan Heim to document local biodiversity for MeetYourNeighbours(.org); in the North Cascades, photographing areas being proposed for national park and wilderness expansion by the conservation community; in Boulder doing my own research on mapping urban agriculture potential which my professors are urging me on to publish. And all that in addition to my classes, glacier research and the more mundane mechanics necessary to maintain momentum as a photographer. I’m excited to be convening (curating) a session on quantitative applications of photography in the Earth Sciences at the huge American Geophysical Union meeting in SF in December.

I’ve already got plans to write about many of those things here on dvafoto when Welty has them finished. Cheers to an energetic and passionate photographer for keeping up the good work and settling up fairly with the law.

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