A woman who was arrested after taking photos outside a National Guard base in New York may end up winning a $70 million default settlement thanks to a screw-up by a municipal attorney.
Nancy Genovese was arrested last year after photographing a helicopter parked outside the Gabreski Airport in Suffolk County.
At first, her arrest sparked a wave of mockery from <a href=”http://photographyisnotacrime.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/-Glenn-Beck-Fan,-Highly-Armed,-Busted-For-Casing-National-Guard-Base,-Thinking-It-Was-A-FEMA-Camp-” target=”_blank”>liberal bloggers</a> because not only is she a die-hard Glenn Beck fan, but police also claimed they had found an assault rifle, a shotgun and 500 rounds of ammunition in her car.
It turns out, they may have only found an unloaded rifle in her car.
Whatever they found, they only charged her with misdemeanor trespassing, which pretty much makes the alleged weapons cache in her car irrelevant.
Genovese said she had returned from the shooting range and apparently there is no law against having guns in your car in that area of New York.
But apparently there is a law against photographing the helicopter from a public road. At least according to <a href=”http://photographyisnotacrime.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/Woman-says-trespassing-arrest-at-Air-National-Guard-base-was-misunderstanding” target=”_blank”>National Guard officials</a>.
<blockquote>Major Williams pointed out that signs located next to the helicopter read “the use of cameras or video equipment is prohibited,” and explained that the ANG prefers that no one take photos of the base. He said that if anyone is caught taking photos without prior permission, they will be questioned by base officials.</blockquote>
The problem is, nobody told Google that photography of the base and the helicopter is prohibited from a public space because you can see it all here on <a href=”http://photographyisnotacrime.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/maps?q=40.836478,+-72.646027&amp;num=1&amp;t=h&amp;sll=40.843982,-72.6378&amp;sspn=0.006295,0.016447&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;ll=40.836783,-72.645821&amp;spn=0.001149,0.002744&amp;z=19&amp;iwloc=A” target=”_blank”>Google Map View.</a>
The truth is, it is not illegal to take pictures of the helicopter or the base from a public road. That was just military hogwash.
That is why the trespassing charge against Genovese was eventually dropped.
Genovese then filed a federal lawsuit against Suffolk County and Southampton Town for false arrest.
Southampton Town attorney Michael Sordi failed to respond to the lawsuit in a timely manner, putting the town at risk for having to dish out a $70 million default settlement.
The incident forced Sordi’s resignation last week, according to a <a href=”http://photographyisnotacrime.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/Southampton-Town-Board-Accepts-Town-Attorneys-Resignation” target=”_blank”>local news site.</a>
Even though she has been cleared of criminal charges, authorities have yet to return her memory card, according to <a href=”http://photographyisnotacrime.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/mother-of-3-arrested-for-taking-pictures-of-tourist-attraction-at-airport” target=”_blank”>Long Island Lawyer Blog,</a> who obtained a copy of the lawsuit.
<blockquote>Nancy Genovese stopped her car on the side of the road across the street from the airport in an area that is open and accessible to the public, and crossed over the road to the airport entryway that is also open and accessible to the public to take a picture of the helicopter display. While still in her car, she took a picture of the decorative helicopter shell with the intention of posting it on her personal “Support Our Troops” web page.
As Nancy Genovese was preparing to drive away, she was stopped and approached by Robert Iberger, a lieutenant with the Southampton Town Police. Lieutenant Iberger demanded to know why she was taking photographs. Nancy showed the lieutenant her camera, but Lieutenant Iberger grabbed her camera and handled it “without care”. In an attempt to prevent the lieutenant from damaging the camera, Nancy removed her memory card, which Lieutenant Iberger confiscated. To date, Nancy’s memory card still has not been returned to her.</blockquote>
Authorities then searched her car and found the weapons and determined she was a terrorist threat. They detained her on the side of the road for more than five hours where she was questioned police, the FBI and Homeland Security officials.
In her lawsuit, Genovese alleges that authorities stole $5,300 in cash from $13,000 she had that was meant to pay tuition for her son and daughter.
They ended up transporting her to jail where they charged with a misdemeanor trespassing, even though she never set foot on the military property.
And the judge set her bail at $50,000, which is an extraordinary amount for a single misdemeanor charge.
Because her family was unable to immediately afford the bail, she was held for four days in which she was placed on a suicide watch and forced to wear a flimsy gown with no undergarments.
According to Long Island Law Blog, police had lied in their initial claim that she had an extensive weapons cache in her car.
<blockquote> Upon Nancy’s release, Undersheriff Caracappa issued a press release in response to media inquiries, titled “Armed Woman Arrested for Trespassing at Suffolk County Gabreski Airport”, which falsely stated that Nancy had been taking pictures of the airport and surrounding security”, and that she became hysterical, and began “screaming and flailing around” when confronted. Undersheriff Caracappa also falsely reported that Nancy had surveillance equipment, 500 rounds of ammunition, and “scary weapons” in her car, and that she was a right-wing extremist and terrorist, and that she had been at the airport trespassing several times and had been warned to stay away. Upon further inquiry, it turns out that Nancy had never stopped at that airport before, had no “surveillance equipment” of any kind other than her point and shoot camera, and certainly was not a terrorist. Undersheriff Caracappa has refused to issue a retraction or correction.