The New York Press Club announced on Wednesday that ProPublica and New York Magazine won a New York Press Club Journalism Award for Crime Reporting covering the NYC metro area, in the magazine category.
“He Defended the NYPD in Court. Then They Arrested Him” by ProPublica’s Jake Pearson centers on Karl Ashanti, a city lawyer who defended New York Police Department officers against civil-rights lawsuits — until he was arrested for a crime he didn’t commit. Ashanti was forced out of the job he’d held for 11 years in the city’s Law Department and then pursued his own civil-rights lawsuit. To tell Ashanti’s story, Pearson conducted extensive on-the-record interviews with the lawyer and his peers, examined the entire discovery record in the case, including performance reviews and deposition transcripts, and obtained internal Law Department settlement records.
The resulting portrait offered a nuanced depiction of how a Black man who had both defended police officers and been unjustly arrested by them navigated both sides of one of the most fraught issues of our time: the relationship between the police and citizens. Tracing Ashanti’s arc also allowed the story to raise thorny, systemic questions about the ways cities deliver justice in a legal system where police hold so much sway, while simultaneously scrutinizing the hardball legal approach the city takes in defending civil-rights lawsuits, even in instances where strong evidence supports a claim that officers crossed the line.
See a list of all New York Press Club Journalism Award winners.