Charges against Orion photographer dropped

Misha Osinovskiy, the student photographer arrested Sept. 1 for taking photos of a police officer handing out a citation, will not face charges in connection with that arrest. Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey decided this week after looking into the case not to file charges.

On the night of his Labor Day weekend arrest, Osinovskiy was taking photos of revelers in the neighborhood south of the Chico State University campus, when he came upon Jerry Berenger, an Alcoholic Beverage Control officer out of Redding. Berenger was then issuing a citation for public urination.

Osinovskiy, on assignment for the campus newspaper The Orion, took a flash photo. Berenger warned him not to take another. Exercising what he believed to be his right to take a photo in a public place, Osinovskiy snapped his shutter and set off the flash again.

At this point accounts differ as to how many times the camera flashed—the photographer said two and the officer said six. Regardless, Berenger arrested Osinovskiy, initially on a charge of giving false information to a police officer. Berenger’s partner had asked Osinovskiy for some sort of press pass. But since it was the beginning of the semester, the photographer did not have one. Later the charge was changed to obstructing a police officer.

Osinovskiy was transported to the Chico Police Department and then the Butte County Jail before being released on his own recognizance after six hours of incarceration.

“This is a classic case of two people witnessing the same event and remembering it entirely differently,” Ramsey said.

During his investigation Ramsey visited The Orion’s press room and asked to see the negatives taken that night with Osinovskiy’s camera. He said there were two photos of Berenger and one that showed a flash, but the subject matter was unclear.

Ramsey said it was recently discovered that Osinovskiy’s camera has a pre-flash, meaning it may have flashed even when photos were not being taken. He said those flashes, in the officer’s opinion, interfered with his ability to do his job—in this case issue a citation to a public pisser.

“I decided there was no intent [on Osinovskiy’s part] to obstruct, delay or interfere with the officer,” Ramsey said.

The photographer’s attorney, Bob Marshall, said he would ask Ramsey for a "factual finding of innocence," which would erase any record of Osinovskiy’s arrest.