Library programming director cleared of charges related to 2016 - KCTV5

Library programming director cleared of charges related to 2016 event

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File photo. (KCTV) File photo. (KCTV)
KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -

A municipal court judge has cleared a Kansas City Public Library official arrested more than a year ago in a case that drew national attention because of its free-speech implications.

Steven Woolfolk, the library’s director of programming and marketing, was found not guilty Friday on all three charges stemming from a Library event in May 2016.

According to the library, he had attempted to intervene in an incident in which a patron, who was also a local activist, was confronted by outside security personnel during a question-and-answer session.

Woolfolk initially was charged with interfering with the arrest. Counts of resisting arrest and assault were added later.

“Justice was done,” said library director Crosby Kemper III. “The library, like the judge, has consistently expressed surprise that this ever went to trial. That a public event at a public library should result in the indictment of a librarian.”

“I don’t understand how this kind of thing could happen at a public event,” Locascio said from the bench. “You’re going to have people say ridiculous things at a public event. You scratch your head and move on.”

According to the library, the case dates back to a May 9, 2016 event at the library’s branch on the plaza that featured Middle East envoy Dennis Ross.

Activist Jeremy Rothe-Kushel was first on the microphone when the presentation got to its question and answer segment. His question implied that the U.S. and Israel have engaged in state-sponsored terrorism.

After Ross responded, Rothe-Kushel attempted to follow up and was grabbed by one of the private security guards and then by others in the security detail, which included off-duty police.

Woolfolk tried to intercede, noting that public discourse is accepted and encouraged at a public event held in a public library.

Rothe-Kushel was arrested for trespassing and resisting arrest. Those charges were eventually dropped.

The small security squad was arranged by the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Kansas City, one of the library’s partners in the event, to supplement to standard library security.

Kemper called its response “an egregious violation of First Amendment rights.”

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