Four years ago, Boston police officers arrested a man for videotaping them making an arrest in a public park.
They charged Simon Glik with felony wiretapping, disturbing the peace and aiding the escape of a prisoner – even though all he did was hold up a video camera – and the man they were arresting did not escape.
The charges were quickly dropped and Glik eventually filed a lawsuit for false arrest, claiming his First and Fourth Amendment rights had been violated.
The police officers filed a motion to dismiss his complaint on the basis on “qualified immunity,” which is their way of claiming they had no idea videotaping cops in public was completely legal.
A judge denied that motion and they appealed, which brought the issue back to court last week.
Now another judge will decide whether the cops will be granted qualified immunity, which would set a legal precedent that cops can basically make unlawful arrests of citizens who videotape them without fear of repercussions.
The Citizen Media Law Project attended the first day of the hearing last week and did a thorough job of summarizing and analyzing the case on hand.
The ACLU has strongly backed Glik and has summarized the case on this site, including producing the above video, which shows the clip that got him arrested.
The case once again highlights the absurdity of police using wiretapping laws – which were created to prevent telephone conversations from being secretly recorded – to crack down on citizens videotaping them in public.
Massachusetts is a two-party consent state, meaning you are not allowed to secretly record another person without their knowledge.
But Glik was openly recording the officers in Boston Common as many other witnesses watched.
However, because the cops were busy beating up on a man, they did not notice Glik recording them, so they are arguing that it was done in secret.
Under their interpretation of the law, as they told the judge, the man who videotaped the Rodney King beating back in 1991 would have been committing a crime had it been done in Massachusetts instead of California.
It’s pretty much an open-and-shut case, but police are doing all they can to wear Glik out in the hopes he gives up.
But Glik is a Massachusetts-licensed lawyer who emigrated from Soviet Russia, so apparently he is not taking the Constitution for granted.
Let’s hope the judge doesn’t take it for granted either.