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Allegheny

Woman demands North Versailles police drop charges over her Facebook arrest video

Bob Bauder
| Thursday, July 12, 2018, 7:33 p.m.
Melanie Carter (right) and Nicky Jo Dawson, founder of activist group Blaqkops, talk about Carter’s arrest at a North Versailles movie theater in February. Carter says she was arrested for filming the ejection of children from the theater. (Photo by Bob Bauder)
Melanie Carter (right) and Nicky Jo Dawson, founder of activist group Blaqkops, talk about Carter’s arrest at a North Versailles movie theater in February. Carter says she was arrested for filming the ejection of children from the theater. (Photo by Bob Bauder)

A Wilkinsburg woman and supporters gathered at the Allegheny County Courthouse on Thursday and demanded that District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. dismiss charges that North Versailles police filed against her in February after a confrontation at a local movie theater.

Melanie Carter, 35, contends North Versailles police Officer Christopher Kelly violated her First Amendment rights when he arrested her in February as she recorded a theater manager ejecting several teens. The video posted on her Facebook page went viral and generated more than a million hits.

Kelly could not be reached for comment.

Carter is facing trial on charges of resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and defiant trespassing. She appeared in court Thursday for formal arraignment on the charges.

“Today we delivered a letter to Zappala with community support, saying he should drop all charges,” Carter said, flanked by an attorney and community activists. “It was absolutely a false arrest. In my case, where there is a videotape that clearly shows evidence of me not committing a crime, I’m still being charged with trumped up charges.”

Zappala spokesman Mike Manko said the DA’s office found no wrongdoing by Kelly.

“Our office reviewed the actions of the officer in question, and while some will conclude that his actions did not reflect well on himself or his department, we could find nothing criminal in how he effectuated that arrest,” Manko said.

The letter was signed by 15 groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania.

“This not something that should have ever resulted in charges,” said Bret Grote, legal director for the Pittsburgh-based Abolitionist Law Center, and one of Carter’s attorneys.

Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bob at 412-765-2312, bbauder@tribweb.com or via Twitter @bobbauder.

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