From Prison Inmate to Feisty Photojournalist

J.B. Nicholas is a pretty good writer, too.

For The Daily Beast, J.B. Nicholas (pictured) has written pieces about what it was like to celebrate Christmas and Independence Day behind bars. Now, for The Gothamist, he has detailed his battles with the NYPD.

Nicholas was incarcerated from 1990 to 2003, serving a sentence for the manslaughter of a crack dealer. While in prison, he became a jailhouse lawyer and one of the people he helped, a Latin King leader named Tiger, arranged as a form of payment a job with the Woodbourne Correctional Facility newspaper. That’s how his career in journalism started.

Nicholas explains, in colorful detail, how it dovetailed after his release into photojournalism. As a photographer, he has had rough dealings with the NYPD at a 2007 Yankees game, the Broadway-Lafayette subway station in 2014 and a Midtown construction site in 2015. Here’s how the last incident culminated:

When I raised my camera to take a picture of the injured construction worker being loaded into the back of the ambulance, Detective Michael DeBonis grabbed me and pulled me away. Then Stephen Davis, the chief of the DCPI (Office of the Deputy Commissioner of Public Information), stepped up and said: “This is the last time you’ll do that.”

DeBonis ordered me to surrender my press credential, ejected me from the scene and ordered officers to ensure I didn’t return. I was told later that after I was kicked out, he went over to the press pen and barked, “Tell your boys in the press photographers association he’s never getting another press card.”

Nicholas sued in federal court to regain his press credential and won. To find out how the DCPI handled that defeat, be sure to check out the final paragraphs of the Gothamist essay.

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