November trial set in former JPR reporter’s federal suit against city of Medford

In a screenshot taken from police bodycam footage obtained by her attorneys, Medford Police officers confront and arrest then-Jefferson Public Radio reporter April Ehrlich during an encampment sweep on Sept. 22, 2020. Image from pressfreedomtracker.us
January 14, 2023

Ehrlich was arrested in 2020 while trying to cover police clearing of public park

By Stephen Floyd, Ashland.news

A November trial has been scheduled in a federal lawsuit filed by former JPR reporter April Ehrlich against the city of Medford over her 2020 arrest while covering the evacuation of a homeless camp in a public park.

The trial is scheduled for Nov. 14 before U.S. District Court Judge Mark Clarke, with parties expected to complete pre-trial discovery by May 31.

Ehrlich, who filed suit Sept. 20, 2022, under her legal last name Fonseca, is seeking unspecified damages for the alleged violation of her constitutional rights, and for physical and emotional harm suffered during the incident. She is also seeking punitive damages as a deterrent for other cities who may demonstrate “a wanton, reckless or callous indifference” toward civil rights.

Medford has denied wrongdoing and continues to assert its closure of a city park to clear the camp was legal.

Ehrlich was arrested Sept. 22, 2020, while covering the evacuation of Hawthorne Park, which had seen an influx of homeless campers during fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic and the Almeda Fire. Medford had declared the park closed due to incidents of assault and drug use, and had given campers notice to vacate prior to sending officers to the park that morning to enforce the closure.

Body camera footage showed officers approaching Ehrlich as she walked through the park and was told the facility was closed and, if she remained, she would be placed under arrest. Ehrlich said she was a journalist reporting on the evacuation and the park could not be closed as a public gathering place, and she was taken into custody by multiple officers.

Ehrlich was charged in Medford Municipal Court with resisting arrest and trespassing and faced up to a year in jail and a $6,250 fine. Her case was dismissed in August of 2022 after the court ruled Medford had not demonstrated why closure of a public gathering place like the park was justified by the enforcement objectives of police.

Email Ashland.news reporter Stephen Floyd at sfloydmedia@gmail.com.

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Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.

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