Photojournalist fights for First Amendment rights, supports FOI Foundation


AUSTIN – Freelance photojournalist Avi S. Adelman, who received a $345,000 legal settlement after he was arrested when taking photographs in a public place in Dallas, has become a major supporter of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas 

The Dallas Area Rapid Transit board of directors voted in October to settle a civil rights lawsuit filed by Adelman over his arrest by a DART police officer in 2016 as he photographed paramedics treating a drug overdose victim in public. 

Adelman was arrested on a misdemeanor criminal trespass charge and was held in the Dallas County jail for 24 hours. The charge was dismissed a week later. DART Police Chief of James Spiller determined the arrest did not meet the agency’s standards. He ordered an internal affairs investigation, and the agency later concluded Adelman had not broken any laws.

The settlement required a payment of $345,000 to Adelman in return for dismissing the lawsuit and all further claims against DART or the police officer, Stephanie Branch. The DART board would not agree to post DART’s “recording of police policy,” issued less than 60 days after Adelman’s arrest, on its website, as many transit agencies do.

Adelman has since contributed to the non-profit FOI Foundation of Texas in the “Freedom” category, signifying donations by individuals of at least $1,000. He also has donated to the National Press Photographers Association’s legal advocacy efforts

“I will work with, and support, First Amendment advocacy groups to make sure arrests like this never happen again, and to defend the photographer vigorously when it does happen,” he said. “Photographers of all levels – from iPhone amateurs to geared-out photojournalists – should understand their rights when it comes to photographing police and fire personnel performing their jobs in public. But the burden should be on law enforcement agencies to train their officers on our right to photograph and record their activities in a public area.”

Adelman, a freelance photographer since attending high school in Philadelphia in the 1970s, holds a degree in journalism and is a member of the National Press Photographers Association and the Society of Professional Journalists. He has organized and supported educational programs developed by the NPPA on the right to photograph and record in public, which have been presented to law enforcement officers.