Steve Horrigan, the Photography is Not a Crime reader who spent 24 hours in jail on a felony wiretapping charge last week, is confident the video he recorded will not only prove his innocence, but it will prove the North Port police chief is a liar.
But now it’s just a matter of getting the police to return his phone to him.
Chief Kevin Vespia responded to my email on Saturday with his officers’ version of the story, claiming that Horrigan was not arrested for recording, but for obstructing a criminal investigation while police officers conducted a “high risk stop.”
I included that email along with my response in the original story under “update”.
Since then, Horrigan sent me an email with a detailed response to the chief’s claims.
I’ve posted that email in its entirety below.
He also uploaded a couple of Youtube videos describing the events that night, which I’ve posted below.
Chief Vespia also sent me another email, which I’ve reposted below Horrigan’s email in an attempt to bring all versions into the open. This email doesn’t really say much, other than apologizing for calling Corey.
I give Vespia credit for responding to my emails with his side of the story, but that also places him at risk for looking like a fool if the video proves his officers lied.
And his version still doesn’t justify arresting Horrigan on the wiretapping charge.
Here is Horrigan’s email:
Carlos, First I would be a fool to relate to you anything that isn’t true because there is a VIDEO of this complete event and this police chief would seem to me to be a little silly to be making these accusations without viewing the footage. He has my smart phone in his possession. I would even be willing to go to the police station and give him my charging cable so that he could view the event in its entirety. I would even be willing to turn on the phone and show him how to view the footage. Hello…. You don’t need any he said, she said or three versions of the story.
1) He states that the officers told me to leave or stop recording 10 to 15 times. They never told me to leave the area I think he might have told me to go home once then but I’m not sure. And I’m not sure that he even told me to quit recording or I’d be arrested. He certainly never asked if I was audio recording and never told me to stop audio recording. This can be confirmed on the footage. The officer did seem quite annoyed at me for recording but even told me once that I was allowed to record and that can be confirmed from the footage and or the dash cam videos.
2) What is interesting to me, when I was recording from across the street which was a two lane road with a median that there was a female walking her dog up and down the sidewalk within four feet of the automobile that was supposedly a high risk suspect who was eventually arrested for having a marijuana cigarette. There were several citizens milling around the scene much much closer than myself. All of this can be confirmed by watching the video.
3) I did move a little later to the other side of the street on the public sidewalk at least 35 feet (I measured the distance yesterday, it’s helpful when the police encounter is right behind your house) from the officer and about 100 ft from the stopped vehicle. I wanted to get closer to the stopped vehicle, but in deference to staying out of the way of the officers and their vehicles, I stayed 100 ft away from the stopped vehicle. I did this because the drug dog showed up and I wanted to get the footage of the drug dog going around the car from that angle which is my right. At that time, there were several citizens standing close to or near the officer in question on the other sidewalk who were much closer than myself. You can see this on the video.
4) When I moved over to the sidewalk, the officer immediately turned around (35 ft away from me, he was about 65 ft from the stopped vehicle) and said “It is illegal to videotape the police.” His exact words he walked up to me, I didn’t walk up to him. Two other police officers surrounded me, from the rear and the left. The one officer said give me your id, which I left at home, I voluntarily gave him my name and birth date and that I would decline to answer any other questions until I was represented by an attorney and he then stated that I was under arrest. And that’s the whole thing in a nutshell.
5) I talked with the three officers later at the Venice station. The officer stated that he thought that he was being fair with me but that I wouldn’t do what he told me to do. I asked, “Did you arrest me for videotaping the police?” he stated, yes, that is why you were arrested. He didn’t say anything about the obstruction or “safety” situation. The three north port officers that were there and myself were having a debate about the legality and the 1st Amendment rights of a citizen to videotape police and I really believe that they believe that I was breaking the law by videotaping them and one even mentioned that the other officer could sue me individually in civil court for videotaping them. And since everything at this jail is being recorded the police chief should be able to get the video and audio of that conversation. That would have been Jan 25 sometime between 8:30 and 11pm. I’m sure the chief can obtain that video. This is also why I believe that this is such an important case and event. These police officers adamantly believed that private citizens can be arrested for a felony for recording them in a public place, performing public servant duties, by a journalist who is at least 100 ft away on a public sidewalk from a stopped vehicle during a traffic stop. We are going to have to get some kind of guidance from the court on this issue. And by the way, How can a Felony be secondary to a misdemeanor?
6) While I understand that this police chief is going by what his officers are telling him, he would be wise to at least view my footage so that he could confirm or deny the accusations of his officers. The video doesn’t lie. And there was only one officer who talked to me a Sgt. Sirriaca?, the others never paid any attention.
7) And finally, Carlos, after reading and commenting and digesting court cases and everything from Photography is not a Crime for the last two to three years. Do you think (I know what you think) that I don’t know enough not to obstruct the police and what my rights are as a photojournalist, no matter how amateur? I am confident that after everyone has a chance to view the footage that you will see that I acted according to the law and that I acted in a professional manner and never was unkind, disrespectful,abusive or profane of any law enforcement officer and that I never got in the way of their activities, other than to record public police activities on a public sidewalk at least 100 ft away from the traffic stop. I guess that was my crime.
And here is Vespia’s email:
Thank you, I apologize for the typo, I was performing extreme multi-tasking when I responded as I had a few emails regarding the issue. Unfortunately, you received my response to Corey and I believe, Corey received my Carlos response. I appreciate you taking no offense to it as it was not intentional, simply human error.
As far as having further discussion regarding this topic, I would be happy to talk with you further, however, I will not discuss this particular case any further as criminal prosecution is still pending. I would be available to talk about the general topic and if you are interested, feel free to contact me at one of the numbers listed below Monday – Friday 8 am – 5 pm. I am currently out of the office until Wednesday, however, if you have a date and time you are available to discuss further, please let me know. Stay safe!!!
Update: The National Press Photographers Association fired off a letter to North Port Police Chief Kevin Vespia protesting the arrest of Horrigan, who is an NPPA member.
Also, PINAC reader and Florida public records advocate Joel Chandler obtained Horrigan’s arrest report.
Chandler said police made unlawful redactions to the arrest report.
They have redacted the name of the individual who was witness to the arrest of Steve. Sounds like they are closing ranks and putting up the blue wall of silence.