Down here in Florida, we have two of the worst police public information officers in the country.
There is, of course, Major Nancy Perez of the Miami-Dade Police Department who singled me out from a horde of other reporters, then claimed I was obstructing justice and resisting arrest before ordering the deletion of my footage, which I later recovered and proved her allegations to be lies.
And now we have Captain Robert Estrada of the North Point Police Department who is claiming he has yet to see the video that led to the arrest of Steve Horrigan, even though it’s been almost two months and the story has gained national attention.
As you recall, Horrigan was arrested in January on wiretapping charges after he video recorded police making a traffic stop on a public street.
Police confiscated his camera and refused to return it until Tuesday of this week after Horrigan filed a motion.
Not surprisingly, the video contradicts much of what police initially claimed as the Sarasota Herald-Tribune points out this week:
The recording appears to refute the North Port Police probable cause affidavit that stated Steve Horrigan was ordered “approximately 10-15 times to stop video/audio taping” during the incident in January. The footage on the returned camera shows the 57-year-old North Port man being told just once to stop recording. The video also suggests Horrigan was considerably farther away from the traffic stop than the “approximately 15 feet” noted in the official report.
But what is surprising is that Estrada, who is the department’s public information officer, meaning he is responsible for disseminating information to the media, claims he has yet to see the video.
North Port Police Capt. Robert Estrada said he had not reviewed the video, and said he could not comment on an active case. The State Attorney’s Office, which is considering whether to pursue the charges against Horrigan, did not return calls seeking comment.
Considering the suburban bedroom community of North Port is such a hot bed of news and excitement, perhaps he simply hasn’t had time to watch the 10-minute video.
Fortunately, city officials were able to find the time to create a complete staff directory, which allows us to email Estrada the video in the hopes he can eventually view it and provide some type of comment.
Last time Estrada said anything on the record regarding Horrigan’s case, he admitted the police department was following false legal guidelines in dealing with citizens who record police in public.
So maybe his boss put a gag order on him to prevent him from furthering embarrassing the department.
And speaking of embarrassing your profession, check out the comments made by a Naples law professor on this topic.
Mark Bonner, a law professor with Ave Maria Law School, says both sides have a good argument, but there is potential for Horrigan to get in trouble.
“From what I understand the individual did not have consent from either the police or the motorist being written a ticket or stopped,” says Bonner.
“On the other hand, what the police are doing — just physically standing out there on the street, is open to anybody to look at.”
Maybe then he can discover that Florida’s law has an expectation of privacy provision, meaning you do not need consent to record someone in public.
On that note, perhaps State Attorney Earl Moreland should brush up on the Florida wiretapping law because he can’t seem to decide whether to dismiss or prosecute this case.
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CARLOS MILLER’S LEGAL DEFENSE FUND
I am immersed in a legal case where I not only want to clear my criminal charges stemming from my arrest in January, but I want to sue the Miami-Dade Police Department for deleting my footage, which I was able to recover.
My goal is to set some type of precedent to ensure this does not happen as often as it does today where cops simply get away with it.
So if you would like to contribute, please click on the “donate” button below and contribute whatever you can afford.
You can also contribute to my Legal Defense Fund by purchasing a photographer rights lens cloth and/or laminated card to wear around your neck like a press badge through Zap Rag.Please write “carlos3” in the comments section of the Paypal transaction to ensure I receive a portion of the sale.