The Silurians Press Club announced on Saturday that ProPublica and New York Magazine won the first place medallion in the People Profiles category for Excellence in Journalism.
“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. Following his arrest, he was forced out of his job after 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 Ashanti 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 of Ashanti 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 proper 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 scrutinizing the hardball legal approach the city takes in defending civil-rights lawsuits, even in instances where evidence is strong that officers have crossed the line.