It’s been more than a month since Florida resident Steve Horrigan was arrested on felony wiretapping charges for video recording police in public, but the North Port Police Department has yet to return his cell phone.
In fact, the Sarasota County State Attorney’s Office hasn’t even bothered to formally charge him with a crime.
Instead, Horrigan’s case remains in legal limbo, preventing him from moving forward with a much-deserved lawsuit.
Horrigan was also charged with misdemeanor resisting arrest without violence, which is the usual tack-on charge in Florida when you’ve pissed off the cops.
That means the state attorney has more than a month to do nothing with that case. Under Florida law, a defendant arrested for a misdemeanor must be tried within 90 days of the arrest and within 175 days of a felony arrest.
And since it’s been less than 50 days since his January 25 arrest, he might as well be patient.
On Sunday, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune ran a lengthy, in-depth article about Horrigan’s case and the ongoing battle between police and citizens with cameras.
Although the reporter did a great job with multi-faceted reporting, he fell into the same trap that most corporate journalists do and failed to call a spade a spade.
Rather, he failed to just come out and say that police had no legal basis to arrest Horrigan because they had no expectation of privacy. The law is very clear on that.
Yet the reporter allowed the cops to get away with this tidbit.
North Port Police Capt. Robert Estrada, who says he has not seen Horrigan’s video, says his officers are guided by Florida statutes prohibiting audio recording of face-to-face conversations without mutual consent. Even though police at the scene were operating in a public place, where there is no expectation of privacy, Estrada says Horrigan crossed the line when his camera eavesdropped on a confidential conversation between officers after being ordered to stop.
“If the officers there were yelling to each other loud enough for everyone to hear, that would obviously not constitute a personal conversation,” he says. Estrada added that Horrigan was arrested because police did not consent to be recorded, and that they had to divert their attention from the traffic stop to confront Horrigan.
“It is a gray area, I don’t know,” Estrada conceded. “It’s up to the courts to decide.”
Horrigan says the law is black and white.
It is not just Horrigan saying the law is black and white. It is countless prosecutors from Florida and in other states whose wiretapping laws are similar.
It is pretty obvious by reading the actual law.
So the reporter should have just come out and say it rather than just let Horrigan say it because this gives all those cop apologists a false leg to stand on.
I’m also curious as to how Estrada can say with certainty that Horrigan “eavesdropped on a confidential conversation” if he has not seen the most vital piece of evidence in this case, not that I believe for a second he has not seen the video.
Horrigan has his own theory as to why he was arrested and it has nothing to do with confidential conversations.
This is how he explained it in an email to Photography is Not a Crime:
The two guys who they stopped in the car that I was recording are fighting their charges, even though they are pretty minor. Both are 2nd degree misdemeanors, so I’ll be going to their hearings to see what’s up with that. It’s pretty egregious that the cops arrested both of these guys even though there were two pre-toddlers in the back seat. Those poor kids were probably terrified. They had to wait for a family member to get there to take the kids home, otherwise they would have called the children services. I was in handcuffs in the police car before they arrested the two brothers so I couldn’t get that recorded. That is probably why they nicked me, so that I wouldn’t have been able to record the screaming kids in the back seat after arresting Dad for driving on a restricted license. These cops have no shame at all. Protect and serve.