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New York State legislator faces felony charge in attack on photographer

(CPJ/IFEX) - New York, May 12, 2009 - The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes the prosecution of an elected New York state official for his alleged attack on a photographer who was trying to take his picture.

New York State Senator Kevin Parker, who represents Brooklyn's District 21 in the Albany-based legislature, was arrested May 8 in Brooklyn and charged with felony criminal mischief, according to the New York Post. Parker was getting out of a car near his parents' home in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn when New York Post photographer William C. Lopez took his picture from a public vantage point on the street, the paper said. It was unclear what story Lopez was covering. The senator has pleaded not guilty to the charges, according to the New York-based Web site North Country Gazette.

"It's shocking that a photographer working in New York City would be subjected to a violent attack by an elected public official," said CPJ executive director Joel Simon. "We commend New York City police and prosecutors for taking appropriate action."

Parker pursued the photographer and finally sat on the hood of the photographer's SUV after Lopez managed to get inside, according to the Post. Parker then reached into the car and grabbed Lopez's camera, Lopez told the Post. The two men struggled over the equipment through the open car door. Parker then ripped the passenger door off the side of the car and pulled the flash off the camera and smashed it on the ground, reported the Post.

In Albany, State Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith removed Parker from his leadership posts as majority whip and chairman of the Energy Committee pending the outcome of the criminal charges.

Parker has a history of violent outbursts, according to the Post. In 2005, he was accused of punching a New York City traffic agent in the face, but charges were dropped after Parker agreed to take an anger management course. Last year, the senator was accused of choking one of his legislative employees and smashing her glasses. She pressed charges but no arrest was made, reported the Post. Parker claimed the employee was responsible for starting the altercation.

Parker's spokeswoman, Regina Luzincourt, did not respond to CPJ's requests for comment.

CPJ is a New York-based, independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom around the world.

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