Police once again used felony wiretapping charges to arrest a pair of men who were videotaping them in public.
This time, the incident occurred in Massachusetts, a state that makes it illegal to secretly audio record a public official in public.
However, in this case, it was no secret that the officers were being videotaped because one law enforcement officer even allowed them to continue filming before a cop from another agency stepped in to make the arrests.
That officer, Greenfield Police Sgt. Todd M. Dodge, also searched the men’s RV without a search warrant or their consent.
“They claimed they were able to get into the RV because the VIN number was manipulated,” Pete Eyre said in a Skype interview with Photography is Not a Crime Monday night.
Police said they found ammo in the RV, which led to Eyre getting charged with a felony firearm charge as well.
Eyre was arrested Thursday night along with Adam Mueller as the two men were attempting to bail another friend out of the Franklin County Jail.
Eyre and Mueller penned a detailed account of the incident on their blog, Cop Block.
The two men ended up spending 13 hours in jail before they were released upon their own recognizance. However, police have yet to return their video cameras and cell phones.
The incident began when Eyre and Mueller drove down from New Hampshire where the gun laws are not as strict to bail out their friends, who had been charged with possession of marijuana and firearms after they had been pulled over for speeding.
They both walked into the lobby of the Franklin County Jail with video cameras, prompting a debate with detention officers on whether or not they had the right to film.
A supervisor who was wearing a white shirt instead of a green shirt eventually told them they were allowed to continue filming as long as all they were doing is bailing their friend out.
So then they stepped outside to walk to the grocery store to withdraw cash from an ATM, which was when they noticed they were being followed by a Greenfield police officer in a car who turned out to be Sgt. Dodge.
“He asked, ‘Are you filming me, are you audio taping me, that’s illegal in Massachusetts’,” Eyre said.
“I asked if we were being detained and he said no.”
After making their way back to the lobby of the Franklin County Jail, they were suddenly informed by the detention officer behind the counter that they were not allowed to film. The supervisor who had given them prior permission was no longer around.
Sgt. Dodge stepped into the lobby and joined the debate along with two other Franklin County Jail detention officers.
After a few minutes of debating the double-standards of jail officials being allowed to film them with surveillance cameras, Eyre and Mueller suggested they all step outside onto the public sidewalk to continue the discussion.
And that’s where they were arrested.
Outside almost immediately we were ordered to turn off our cameras – a threat, they stated, that if not followed, would result in our arrest for trespassing. We again continued to point out the double-standard they were enforcing – that they could film but we could not, that the policy they cited wasn’t clear as what was now supposedly banned had earlier been approved and that their facility itself was public property. Moments later Dodge grabbed Adam’s wrist and twisted it back, stealing his camera. Other men with badges moved to reinforce Dodge and descend upon me. We did not resist but went limp. Adam was dragged to a car and forced inside. I was carried to another car.
After they were released from jail the following morning, they discovered that police had trashed their RV. Check out the video below.
The main issue here is that this is obviously a false arrest because it was no secret that police were being audio recorded.
It is true that people have been convicted on wiretapping charges in Massachusetts when they have secretly recorded cops, even though they did so in public.
But it is also true that cases have been dismissed in Massachusetts when the recording is done openly as it was done in this case.
The ACLU in Massachusetts helped in the latter cases, so hopefully they’ll help in this case.