Two days after he was arrested for holding up a sign on the side of a Florida road, warning drivers about an upcoming speed trap, Jeff Gray had his camera returned to him.
And fortunately police did not delete his video.
The video shows two Lawtey police officers confronting Gray, demanding his identification, including one who addresses him by name.
Officer Michael Starling also asked Gray if he still lived in St. Augustine, further confirming he knew who he was, proving there was no need for Gray to provide his identification.
And the second officer recognized Gray from an incident a few months back when he worked at another agency and snapped Gray’s photo after confronting him for standing on the side of the road holding up a sign.
Nevertheless, Gray was arrested on a charge of resisting police when he refused to hand over his identification.
When the second officer, David Hughes, realized he was recording the encounter from the iPod clipped on his shirt, he told Gray he was breaking the law.
But when Gray asserted that he was wrong, Hughes just turned off the camera as took him into custody, not even bother to charge him with felony wiretapping.
In a telephone interview with Photography is Not a Crime Wednesday, Gray said his iPod, iPhone and pistol were being held at the Bradford County Jail, even though they had previously told him they did not have his property.
But he did have a conversation with Bradford County Sheriff Gordon Smith, who turned out to be very supportive of the Constitution and understanding of the law when it comes to confiscated cameras.
“He said they had no right to hold my camera as evidence unless it was used in a commission of a crime,” Gray said.
Smith also told Gray Hughes may have taken personal offense to him warning drivers about the speed trap because he had lost his job as a police officer in a neighboring town after the speed traps got shut down.
Hughes had worked as an officer in Hampton, another rural town that rakes in hundreds of thousands of dollars a year on speed traps.
But Smith said he shut the speed traps down because the town is so small, the cops were clocking drivers before they had entered it, which meant they had no right to issue drivers tickets based on those speeds.
So Hughes was laid-off as a result of there not being anything else for him to do in that town and he ended up getting a job in Lawtey.
So naturally he doesn’t just perceive Gray to be an annoyance by warning drivers to slow down, he sees him as a threat to his job.
But it only takes a couple of minutes of watching Hughes on Gray’s video to determine he is not worthy of being a cop because he not only tells him it is illegal to refuse to provide identification, but illegal to video record cops without their consent.
Hopefully, Sheriff Smith will set him straight.
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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.