Monthly archives: April 2012

April 29th, 2012

Connecticut Bill Holding Cops Personally Liable Lacks Teeth 0

By Carlos Miller

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No sooner than we started celebrating Connecticut’s passing of the bill that would hold cops personally liable for arresting citizens who record them in public that the naysayers started coming out of the woodworks insisting that the bill lacks teeth.

And they have a point.

As Mike Riggs of Reason points out, the bill “allows citizens to record police officers, so long as the police officers in question don’t object to being recorded.”

In other words, we’re back to square one where we already have the right to record cops, unless, of course, cops believe we are guilty of wirtetapping or loitering or interference or disorderly conduct or simply resisting arrest, even if there are no underlying charge to arrest us in the first place.

Riggs points out to section 1(c) of the bill, which gives cops all kinds of leeways to get away with arresting citizens who legally record them.

“A peace officer shall not be liable under subsection (b) of this section if the peace officer had reasonable grounds to believe that the peace officer was interfering with the taking of such image in order to (1) lawfully enforce a criminal law of this state or a municipal ordinance, (2) protect the public safety, (3) preserve the integrity of a crime scene or criminal investigation, (4) safeguard the privacy interests of any person, including a victim of a crime, or (5) lawfully enforce court rules and policies of the Judicial Branch with respect to taking a photograph, videotaping or otherwise recording an image in facilities of the Judicial Branch.”

The Citizen Media Law Project, which is recommended reading for anybody interested in these issues, also has no confidence in the bill.

Were this fact pattern under Connecticut jurisdiction, the cop could say that what he really meant was that he felt she was endangering the investigation somehow – a 1(c)(3) exception – or that somehow public safety was at risk, a 1(c)(2) exception. Does he have “reasonable grounds” for such beliefs?  Hard to say without further guidance, guidance that the bill does not give.  But I can see cops winning such an argument, despite it seeming the wrong outcome.

Then there is former Albuquerque police officer Mark G. Bralley – a longtime PINAC reader and supporter whom I wrote about in 2008 after he was kicked out of a John McCain rally for taking photos – who stated the following in an email.

Senate Bill 245, comes completely apart with:

(4) safeguard the privacy of a crime victim or other person;

or other person

That would mean any other person and would not exclude any police officer, or for that matter any corporation… thanks to the Supreme Court in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

Not as protective as you might think.

Go back and look at the Albuquerque Onlookers Policy, which applies to requests of crime victims or witnesses asking that onlookers not be allowed close enough to overhear their conversation.

Any good officer would remove a crime victim or witness to the confines of a residence, police car, office, or police station to conduct their interviews, if being subjected to videoing bothers the victim/witness.

And in a followup email:

I’m not sure the Connecticut state senate bill might make past basic employment contract law and I am sure it won’t fare well in actual negotiations that would uncover officers who are otherwise working within their scope of duties.

Don’t get me wrong here, but it could get a bit sticky.  As you know I believe people have an absolute right to hold their hired help accountable. 

Officers are covered when they act in their formal capacity for a government, as long as they do so within the scope of their duties.

The definition of, “within the scope of their duties,” is not always as cut and dry as many would like to believe.

I like the idea of stripping coverage from officers, but I think it already exists, one has to be able to get to a court where it can be applied.

Glik v Boston was exactly the answer to that question.  The Boston officers lost their qualified immunity because the court ruled that they should have know that the charge of wiretapping was no longer a legal charge by court ruling.

I think one has to figure out what we want, in terms of language that will, make the narrow point, without having to get away from the First’s protection.

This first blush skepticism will go away as different ideas get knocked around and some workable ideas start to take hold. 

I understand why and where Connecticut is trying to go, but it is threading a needle of enforcement against the bad actors who will try to hide behind the immunity shield. We want to pierce the shield, without destroying the reason it exists for good actions.

Bralley is an interesting person to get to know because of his longtime police experience as well as his longtime support for First Amendment journalistic protections.

Learn more about him on his site, The Blue Flyer or on his blog, What’s Wrong With This Picture.

Here is a piece he wrote for the police union’s newsletter back in 1999 about a meeting between journalists, including National Press Photographers Association representatives, and police to improve relations.


Please send stories, tips and videos to carlosmiller@magiccitymedia.com.

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.

 Hair Transplant 

Also, in an unrelated PINAC matter, I recently went through a hair transplant operation and I’m documenting my recovery on this blog if you are interested.

April 28th, 2012

PINAC Celebrates Its 5-Year Anniversary By Introducing Citizen Journalism Press Pass 0

By Carlos Miller

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Three arrests. Eleven charges. Multiple assaults. Countless threats. One pending lawsuit. Another future lawsuit. And a single conviction I had reversed on appeal.

And let’s not forget the more than 7.3 million page views racked up along the way, the countless media interviews and a slate of public talks throughout the country where I’ve educated people on their rights to take pictures in public.

Happy Birthday, PINAC. These last five years have been quite a ride.

And thanks to you, the readers; the ones who’ve been here from the beginning, the ones who hopped on board since, the ones who comment daily and the ones who never comment.

Even the ones who never have a nice thing to say about me.

On this five-year anniversary of Photography is Not a Crime, I introduce the above logo that will be on the soon-to-be-available PINAC press badges.

The press pass will not give you any more legal rights than without it but many times, it makes police officers feel more comfortable while you legally document them.

That way when they ask for “credentials,” you have something to show them. It’s not misrepresenting yourself because many of your videos end up on this site anyway.

In fact, it shows a sense of legitimacy because it will require to have your real name and photo on it, so those of you who are adamant about not identifying yourself to police won’t have much use for it.

I personally have no problem stating my first and last name to police officers on the streets because I am not doing anything illegal. I do have a problem with them demanding my identification when they have no legal basis because that is just a form of intimidation.

We just finalized the logo last night, so it will take a few days to create the actual press pass. The logo will also available on t-shirts, caps and bumper stickers.

There will also be other designs and logos, but this one is the official logo for now.

The entire line of items will be available at PINAC Nation, the site we are creating to sell these items.

Thanks to my good friend Grant Stern, who agreed to invest in this venture, we plan to release an attractive line of items over the next few months.

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The above design was created by Christian Pacheco from a concept conjured by Grant and I as we were hanging out on my balcony after a night of boozing.

I’ll let you guys describe in your own words the message it sends out. Really, I’m curious to hear your feedback on the design.

But with the PINAC press pass comes responsibility. You will need to abide by strict journalistic ethics and guidelines, which I will lay out in a future post.

My goal is to legitimize citizen journalism in the eyes of police, so the press pass will identify you as a member of the PINAC press corps when out shooting on the streets.

I’m aware that some people don’t like the term “citizen journalist” and I’m not exactly sold on it either but that’s the term being used right now, so we’ll stick with it.

The press pass won’t gain you access into concerts or sporting events or allow you to swindle free meals at restaurants. It would specifically state that on the back and breaking those guidelines would get the press pass revoked immediately.

And if that happens too often, the whole project will be dismantled because I am not going to risk my journalistic reputation over a few people who can’t handle the responsibility that comes with the press pass.

Legally speaking, there should be no need for a press pass because credentialed journalists don’t have any more legal rights than non-credentialed citizens.

But the laws on the street are different and a press pass can mean the difference between being allowed to record police or getting arrested.

However, even the press pass won’t guarantee that you won’t get arrested as we’ve seen happen to many credentialed mainstream media journalists over the last few years.

The bottom line is that the press pass will inform the cops that you are shooting for a legitimate news site. And like in any news site, there is never a guarantee the footage will actually make it on this site.

But there is also a good chance it will make it on this site if the cop treats you with respect or if he treats you with disrespect. I would like to highlight the good cops just as much as the bad cops.

The rest of the items that will be available for sale won’t come with the strict press pass guidelines, although I do ask that you don’t make an ass out of yourself while wearing a PINAC t-shirt.

My goal is to continue operating PINAC for another five years if not more, so I need to make it as financially feasible as possible.

I lost my job at Miami Beach 411, so that took a significant chunk of money out of my monthly income. Especially at a time when I needed it most considering my escalating legal battle against the Miami-Dade Police Department.

But I’m confident everything will work itself out, including with my court case and my financial situation. I’m not one to stay down for long.

Initially, I wanted to write a long drawn-out post about the highlights I’ve experienced while running this site, but there are far too many.

If you’re interested in that, check out my End of the Year Reviews I did in 2009, 2010 and 2011.

All I can say is that when I first launched this blog, I was so clueless about blogging that I posted my first article in the comments section and was immediately called on it.

Well, that comment came after a few insults in my “about” section, which was lost when I made the transfer to Pixiq.

I dug in my Wordpress archives and made a screenshot just to give you an idea of the reception PINAC received when it was first launched.

You need to read from the bottom up to get the proper time sequence. I cut out the names of the commenters because it also included their emails and IP addresses. And some have become supporters.

Then there was this gem under my first actual post.

You are in desperate need of a well deserved ass kicking. You liberal, trouble-making piece of shit.

judgefernandez.jpgAnd then there was Judge Jose Fernandez who after allowing inadmissible evidence into the trial against me, resulting in a conviction for resisting arrest, telling me he was “shocked” at my “lack of remorse.”

For taking photos? 

And the doubters and haters continued to pour it on as I worked on my appeal, telling me I had no chance in hell in having that conviction reversed.

They were wrong.

Winning that appeal was the most memorable moment of running this site because it sent out the message that I wasn’t fucking around.

That I would go down fighting with my last breath before they shut me up.

And even if they finally do shut me up, even if they do bash my face into the sidewalk like they did that first time, even if they do it to the point where I can’t speak or write anymore, the words I’ve written on this blog over the last five years will remain alive and kicking.

And nobody will ever take that away from me.

But these cops still don’t get it.

It was less than three months ago when Miami-Dade Police Major Nancy Perez had me arrested hours after she received an email from the department’s Homeland Security Bureau advising that I would be documenting the Occupy Miami eviction, an incident in which the footage of my arrest was deleted.

Did she really think I would go down quietly?

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The War on Photography is far from won but we, as citizens, are much more educated about our rights than we were five years ago.

And that was the whole point of this blog; to remind police, photographers and everyday citizens that photography is not a crime.

And with that, we’ve created a national movement that is just now gaining momentum.

And I call that movement PINAC Nation.

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P.S. Just as I finished writing this piece, my Facebook friend, Steve Berke, a standup comedian who ran for Mayor of Miami Beach last year, tagged me in a Facebook post with the following:

LA just launched the inaugural train line that goes from Culver City to Downtown LA. It was a big celebration for the city, and they made all the trains free today. So I went with a few friends and we were excited for the inaugural run, so we brought some snacks. Midway through the hour long train ride, two cops kicked me off the train and then gave me a $75 ticket for having a Tostitos tortilla chip in my mouth, even though there were no signs on the train saying you weren’t allowed to eat. I caught the entire disgraceful act on camera. 7 minutes of video of two LAPD cops harassing me, and me standing up to them and verbally abusing them. I could feel one of them wanting to arrest me, until I busted out my camera and started recording everything. I am going to make the two cops YouTube stars. Thanks Carlos Miller for educating me on my rights to film the police.

 

Please send stories, tips and videos to carlosmiller@magiccitymedia.com.

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.

 Hair Transplant 

Also, in an unrelated PINAC matter, I recently went through a hair transplant operation and I’m documenting my recovery on this blog if you are interested.

April 27th, 2012

Poll: Do You Agree With The Federal Judge That Photos Of Bin Laden's Body Should Remain Censored? 0

By Carlos Miller

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A federal judge ruled Thursday that photos of Osama bin Laden’s body must remain censored to the public eye in the name of national security.

According to CNN:

Judicial Watch, a conservative legal group, had asked the Department of Defense to comply with a Freedom of Information request for the material, especially photos of the September 11 mastermind lying dead on the third floor of his Pakistan hideout.

The group argued it was being “irreparably harmed” by the Obama administration’s “unlawful withholding of requested records.”

But Judge James Boasberg ruled Thursday there were legitimate national security interests to deny disclosure.

“A picture may be worth a thousand words. And perhaps moving pictures bear an even higher value,” said the Washington-based judge. “Yet, in this case, verbal descriptions of the death and burial of Osama bin Laden will have to suffice, for this court will not order the release of anything more.”

In other words, Boasberg believes the photos of bin Laden’s body would incite more violence against the United States than the 10-year war we’ve been waging in their country that has so far led to the deaths of thousands of Afghan civilians.

I believe in complete government transparency, so I believe the photos should be made public.

What do you think?

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April 26th, 2012

Judge Grants Continuance In My Case; Things Look Promising 0

By Carlos Miller

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My court date went extremely well. We received the continuance we were seeking on the basis that we needed to depose four more officers.

At first, Judge Edward Newman wanted to proceed with the trial in the name of efficiency but when he heard about the deletion of footage, he mentioned something about “spoliation of evidence” and didn’t look too pleased that it had happened.

Miami-Dade Major Nancy Perez was in the courtroom, looking extremely stressed, never making eye contact with me once.

My attorney, Arnold Trevilla, brought in another attorney to help with the research to get to the truth.

And Robert Chandler, who has been the driving force behind obtaining all these public records, has sent more requests seeking information from officers higher in the chain of command.

One of the people I want to depose is Rick Bravo, the videographer who recorded my arrest because I believe he is the only one with the knowledge to delete footage from the Canon XA 10.

He works in the same division as Perez and remained close to her throughout the night.

A few days after my arrest, Bravo was nominated for a recognition award for all his years of dedicated service to the department.

It doesn’t appear that he is a certified officer although I’ve been hearing from sources that he is.

However, an extensive database compiled by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune listing all officers in Florida did not list an Enrique Bravo, which is his legal name.

The other cops we might depose are Mario Martinez and Luis Sanchez, the officers who took me into custody under Perez’s commands.

I remember they handcuffed me and walked me to a patrol car and placed all my gear on top of the trunk as they were frisking me.

All my gear minus my video camera.

I remember looking back and calling out for my video camera and one of them telling me not to worry, that they will get my camera.

I was placed in a paddy wagon with a couple of other arrestees and about an hour later, either Sanchez or Martinez opened the door to take my information.

He had my video camera, which he placed in a large paper bag and told me I could retrieve it at the police station once I was released because that, along with all my other camera gear, was too large for the jail impound.

Those cops were professional and had no reason to delete my footage. And even if they did, it would have taken them a while to figure it out under the assumption that it takes someone with knowledge of professional cameras to delete that footage.

And that person might be Bravo.

The irony of all this is that I was watching Bravo shooting the eviction the entire night and I was impressed with his camera and his obvious skills.

I wanted to strike up a conversation with him about cameras the way we camera nerds sometimes do.

I also want to make it clear that I am just stating my suspicions and I’m not directly accusing him of deleting my footage.

However, I did bring up his name in court when the judge asked whom we wanted to depose, so Perez surely relayed the information back to him, so I might as well just lay it all out there for my readers.

We do have a lot more evidence as to the deletion of footage that I cannot expand on at this moment.

And we have witnesses that have come forward.

But it will all come out sooner or later.

We will soon obtain the transcripts of Perez’s deposition, so that should shed more light on the case.

I know they are watching everything I write and that’s ok with me because I am sticking to the truth, something they have had trouble doing in the past.

But I am also watching them. In more ways than they realize.

I also want to thank those of you who have donated to my legal defense fund via PayPal.

I’m still trying to get the Kick Starter campaign going, but it requires them to confirm my bank account and because I moved my money to a credit union, this process can take up to seven days.

So much for that personalized service I was seeking when switching from Bank of America.


 

Please send stories, tips and videos to carlosmiller@magiccitymedia.com.

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.

April 26th, 2012

WikiLeaks Truck Owner Arrested For Photographing Cops; Image Deleted 0

By Carlos Miller

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Metropolitan Transit Authority police arrested a man for photographing them at Penn Station in New York City this afternoon – deleting his photo – before releasing him from a jail cell an hour later.

Clark Stoeckley was issued a summons charging him with “engaging in threatening behavior.”

“I was walking through Penn Station and I came across these MTA cops with semi-automatic weapons,” he said in a phone interview with Photography is Not a Crime.

“I stopped to take a photo and the cop came up to me and arrested me. I asked, ‘why am I being arrested?’

“’Because you’re a dick,’” the officer responded.

While in custody, Stoeckley asked the cop why he felt threatened by a cell phone when he was carrying a semi-automatic gun.

“‘Because it could have been a phone gun,'”  the cop responded.

Last year, MTA police arrested Joey Boots for shooting video of armed soldiers inside Penn Station because they also feared his camera was a weapon. Those charges were eventually dropped.

Having just been released from custody, Stoeckley was on his way home where he will attempt to recover the deleted image from his iPhone. I recommended PhotoRec, which helped me recover the footage that was deleted after Miami-Dade Police Major Nancy Perez arrested me during the Occupy Miami eviction.

Stoeckley, a 29-year-old artist, is notorious for driving the WikiLeaks Truck, a truck he painted to raise awareness for Bradley Manning, the U.S. soldier who is imprisoned for leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks.

Other than that, Stoeckley has no connection to Manning or WikiLeaks, the organization that has published or released to media all sorts of classified documents regarding the American wars overseas.

After Stoeckley was released this afternoon, he tweeted of his arrest, which prompted me to contact him for an interview. He sent me his number and when I called, the first thing I heard was a recorded message warning me that his phone was being monitored by the FBI.

The WikiLeaks Truck became a common fixture at Zuccotti Park during the Occupy Wall Street encampment.

At one point, police arrested him while distributing blankets to Occupy Wall Street activists when he refused to allow them to search the truck, an incident he caught on video.

When they impounded the truck, it ended up going missing.

Stoeckley had to get a judge to track it down. When he finally found it in an impound lot, a New York City police officer gave him a jump start because the battery had gone dead.

But when Stoeckley tried to video record the generous action, he was threatened with arrest for recording a public official on public property.

Check out that video here because it’s not embedding below as I attempted.

 


Please send stories, tips and videos to carlosmiller@magiccitymedia.com.

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.

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