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Monthly Archives: September 2012

TSA Confiscates Camera from man Recording Checkpoint

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UPDATE: TSA says it was not involved in this incident.

TSA screeners confiscated a man’s camera after he began video recording a checkpoint in Puerto Rico, deleting his footage before returning his camera.

The incident has sparked a debate on Flyer Talk as to what laws would actually apply in this case.

On one hand, there are no photo or video restrictions at Transportation Security Administration checkpoints, as much as many screeners act otherwise.

But on the other hand, Puerto Rico has its own constitution and laws that might not always reflect those of the United States.

However, federal laws apply to Puerto Rico, according to Wikpedia.

The story initially came to my attention this week when I received an email from Photography is Not a Crime reader Tom McCormack inquiring how to recover deleted footage.

I sent him a link to PhotoRec, which is free software that I used to recover the footage deleted by the Miami-Dade Police Department during my last arrest in January.

He ended up recovering the footage and sent me a clip, which I posted below.

This is how he explained it in the email:

I was in the San Juan aiport at noon (Sept 24) heading for St. Kitts.

I videotaped (Canon Power Shot) the podium where they make you show the passport/boarding pass, as I approached and then the next area  with the X-ray scanners. It was busy. One TSA woman told me to stop from about 20 feet away. I didn't.

They all seemed intrigued I wouldn't follow their orders. A TSA guy soon approached me and said I had to stop. I kept the video going and said

"Sorry, it's a Constitutional right." He said "Okay" and walked back, a little indignant,  to the X ray area.

When I went through X rays they were waiting for me. Two uptight TSA ladies rolled up on a cart and approached me. I grabbed my camera and started rolling; I wanted to capture the conversation with them. 

One of them approached me and violently ripped the camera from my hands. I was shocked and told her to give it back and lunged for my camera. They took my camera and passport and boarding pass and ran off to some corner to confer with one another.

A police officer approached and asked where I was from. I said California. The conversation went like this:

Me:  "I'm from California. Why?"

Him: "Well, each State has its own rules.”

Me: "But this is TSA. A Federal agency. Therefore the State laws don't apply. Besides, the First Amendment of the Constitution trumps state rules."

Him: "This is an airport. You can't just videotape people. You need permission."

Me :  "Nonsense, this is a public arena. There is not permission required or any expectation of privacy here." 

Him: "No, Puerto Rico is not like the States. There are local laws that have  nothing to do with the way they do things in the  States."

Me:  "Look, let's just  agree to disagree. I don't accept anything you say. I want my camera back. See stole it. I want her to give it back right now."

Him:  "She didn't steal it. She just confiscated it  because you violated the  rules."

The TSA lady reappeared with my camera, passport, boarding pass.  I took it and started to walk away (pissed off) when I noticed the camera would not go on. I looked at the cartridge slot and it was gone. They had stolen it!

I showed the cop and said, "Look I want my cartridge (with 200 or so personal photos) back or I'll call a lawyer and 911 to get more cops.

This is outrageous!"  He seemed to be aware I was getting upset and the TSA ladies scurried off with the cop and came back  2 minutes later with the cartridge.

"It must have fallen on the ground" said the cop.

Yeah, right. Predictably all the videos of them giving me a hard time were deleted. The whole episode lasted about 10 minutes.


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.

Facebook PINAC Page

You can keep up with my stories by friending me on Facebook or following me on Twitter and/or Google + or by liking the PINAC Facebook page.

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Fullerton Police Ripped Film out of Woman's Camera After Kelly Thomas Beating Death

A day after a third Fullerton cop was charged in the beating death of a mentally ill homeless man that was caught in a gruesome and horrifying city surveillance video, the victim’s father said there is more video that has yet to be released, specifically footage from cameras that were confiscated by police.

Ron Thomas, who has been relentless in seeking justice for his son, said there is one clip that shows police ripping the film out of a woman’s camera in the moments after the beating.

However, they are saving that evidence for the trial, which has not been scheduled yet.

Ron Thomas was speaking at the Covering Social Protest Movements in an age of Social Media journalism conference in Orange County, which runs until tomorrow.

The revelation was made after I asked him about the initial reports of the confiscated cameras during his talk.

I interviewed him on video after his talk but he did not want to elaborate anymore on that subject because of the pending trial.

In the above video, which I shot handheld with my Flip, he talks about his efforts in getting Joe Wolf indicted, even though prosecutors resisted at first.

Wolf was the first to strike Kelly with his baton, but it took more than a year after Jay Cicinelli and Manny Ramos were indicted before he was charged.

In the video, Ron Thomas also talks about how the mainstream media was initially reluctant to report on the story of the beating death and even refused to run the photo of his son’s battered face at first, but did so only did so after a local blog posted the photo.

Hearing Ron Thomas speak has been the highlight of this workshop so far considering I’ve been following from the beginning.

Also attending the conference is Julie Dermansky, a New Orleans photojournalist and avid PINAC reader, whom I met in person for the first time.

Tomorrow, several of us will be meeting at the following pub in Santa Ana at 5 p.m., so if you live in the area, come join us. Feel free to email me at the address below to touch base.

The Olde Ship Pub and Restaurant

1120 W. 17th St.

Santa Ana, California.


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.

Facebook PINAC Page

You can keep up with my stories by friending me on Facebook or following me on Twitter and/or Google + or by liking the PINAC Facebook page.

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New Jersey Cop Caught on Video Threatening to Steal Teen's Camera

A New Jersey cop who did not appreciate being video recorded by a 15-year-old boy threatened to steal the teen’s camera forever.

“Turn that video camera off right now or it’s going to be mine forever,” the Hanover Township police officer said, obviously knowing he was being recorded, but dumb enough not to care.

The cop is not named in the ABC Local story but I’ve contacted the teen through Facebook in the hopes of obtaining it.

After all, a cop that stupid needs to be exposed.

As it is now, the cop is being sued for the incident that took place several months ago.

It started when Austin DeCaro and friends were hanging out with friends in a public park after dark, which was against a municipal ordinance.

According to ABC Local:

They say they had no idea there was a park curfew, a black car drove up, and a cop in plainclothes confronted them.

"I gave him my name and he realized I had a camera and he said, 'turn that off.'" DeCaro said.

"Turn that video camera off right now or it's going to be mine, forever," the officer said on the video.

"Why?" DeCaro is heard asking.

"And I asked why, and he tackled me to the ground, handcuffed me, threw my camera, and arrested me," DeCaro said.

The camera, down on the ground, still recorded the sound.

"Why are you being so mean?" DeCaro is heard saying on the video.

The cop was going to charge the teens with vandalism, obstruction and being in the park after dark.

But DeCaro’s father showed the video to Hanover Township Police Chief Stephen Gallagher, who reduced the charges to breaking curfew in the park.

He should have dropped the charges entirely out of consideration for the bullying officer on his staff.

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He can be reached at (973) 428-2512 if you would like to urge him to do so.

UPDATE: The cop's name is most likely Joseph Quinn, according to Justia.com.

If anybody has a subscription to PACER, please provide us a copy of the suit.

Here is a LinkedIn page from a Joe Quinn who is also a cop in the same town.

UPDATE II: Here is a copy of the lawsuit.


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.

Facebook PINAC Page

You can keep up with my stories by friending me on Facebook or following me on Twitter and/or Google + or by liking the PINAC Facebook page.

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Spending the Weekend in Orange County for a Workshop if you Want to Meet up Saturday

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Pixiq extended my contract slightly to allow them to move the comments and usernames over to the new blog, so I’m happy to say we’re ending this relationship on a positive note.

September 29 will mark exactly two years I’ve been with Pixiq, so I will probably complete the two-year anniversary, but I still haven’t received any official word as to when is my final date.

Meanwhile, the new design is coming along very nicely. You guys are going to be impressed.

I didn’t like any of the Wordpress themes, so I drew up what I was looking for and sent it to the designer at Splotches, who is based in Europe, and he took what I gave him and added his own creative touch to it.

So right now, it’s looking better than I even imagined.

I’m currently in Orange County for a journalism workshop titled Covering Social Protest Movements in the Age of Social Media at the University of California Fullerton to which I was invited.

 The workshop was prompted by how quickly the news of the Kelly Thomas beating death video spread on the internet after it was released, putting the mainstream media “in the embarrassing position of being behind what turned into a national story about the police killing of a homeless schizophrenic man.”

On Saturday night, I plan to meet a few PINAC readers at a pub in Santa Ana, so if you live in the area, feel free to join us.

We’ll be at the Olde Ship  British Pub and Restaurant, 1120 W. 17th St., Santa Ana, California.

We plan to get there by 5 p.m., but will probably stay there a few hours. Send me a email to the address below if you want to touch base about that.



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.

Facebook PINAC Page

You can keep up with my stories by friending me on Facebook or following me on Twitter and/or Google + or by liking the PINAC Facebook page.

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Palm Beach Prosecutors Refuse to Proceed in Wiretapping Case Against Former Deputy

A former Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputy who runs a website critical of his former employer was accused of illegal wiretapping after he uploaded a video that showed the sheriff in an unfavorable light.

Fortunately, the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office chose not to prosecute Mark Dougan, a longtime Photography is Not a Crime reader who runs PBSOTalk.com, avoiding a trial that it would have surely lost.

And even more fortunate, the state attorney’s office provided a detailed explanation as to why it would not prosecute Dougan, which should be read by every police officer in the state as well as every camera-toting citizen.

The video shows William Stewart, a supporter of Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw, wearing a deputy’s insignia on his cap as he campaigned for the sheriff prior to the election last month, which is a violation of Florida statute 843.085 .

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When Dougan confronted him about the cap, Stewart admitted he was not a deputy, but indicated that Bradshaw had given him permission to wear it.

A Palm Beach Gardens cop named Timothy Connors responded and determined that Stewart was not committing a crime, but told him to remove the cap anyway to appease Dougan, who went home and uploaded the video.

That was when Stewart contacted Connors again, saying he was “offended and embarrassed” by the video, according to the state attorney’s report.

And that was when Connors should have told him to just deal with it because Dougan had not committed a crime.

But Dougan is not just anybody.

According to the report, he is “a person well known in the police community as an anti- Bradshaw blogger and disgruntled former employee of the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Ofiice. Dougan's blog is known to be aggressively critical of the operations and management of the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office.”

In fact, Dougan’s site was inspired by PINAC, he confided in me a few months back, ever since I wrote about a deputy in 2009 whom he reported to internal affairs. Look for Dougan’s comment in the comments section.

Knowing that Dougan was a thorn in the side to Palm Beach law enforcement officers, as you can see in these stories, Connors decided to embarrass himself by seeking prosecution against him on wiretapping charges.

And like the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office has done in the past, it failed to prosecute because Stewart did not have an expectation of privacy.

The report cites case law, but here is the gist of the decision.

The recorded conversation between Dougan and Stewart occurred in a public polling place with others present. The conversation was not private and Dougan did not conceal the recording. Stewart cannot claim a reasonable expectation of privacy and therefore the criminal statute does not apply to Dougan's actions which Stewart found improper.

The case will not be filed.


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.

Facebook PINAC Page

You can keep up with my stories by friending me on Facebook or following me on Twitter and/or Google + or by liking the PINAC Facebook page.

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Egyptian-American Reporter Arrested in Confrontation with Photographer over Israeli Ad (updated)

An Egyptian-American reporter was arrested today after spray painting over an ad inside a New York subway that she found offensive.

And the whole episode was captured on camera.

The ad stated the following:

In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man.

Support Israel

Defeat Jihad

As a videographer recorded her, Mona Eltahawy stated that she was expressing her First Amendment rights to protest, failing to acknowledge that she was also committing an act of vandalism.

Meanwhile, another woman with a camera who said her name was "Pamela" kept trying to prevent Eltahawy from spray painting the ad, even standing in front of it to the point where she would get spray painted.

At one point, Pamela stuck the end of her monopod in Eltahawy's midsection, prompting the reporter to threaten to call police on her.

The two woman got into a shoving match before a pair of New York City cops walked up and arrested Eltahawy who continued to yell in protest that she was being stripped of her rights to express herself.

But if her main goal was to raise awareness about the sign, she probably accomplished her mission.

UPDATE: The ad was placed by Pamela Geller, who runs the blog Atlas Shrugged and is not the biggest fan of Islam to the say the least.

The woman with the camera is Pamela Hall who obviously works for Geller, which is why she was doing all she can to defend the ad, especially considering the New York Post was there with a video camera to document her dedication to her boss.

Eltahawy was charged with criminal mischief, according a friend who was tweeting from her account under the hashtag #ProudSavage.

According to ABC News:

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority in New York initially refused to run blogger Pamela Geller's ad, saying it was "demeaning." But a federal judge ruled in July that it is protected speech under the First Amendment.

Geller, executive director of the American Freedom Defense Initiative and publisher of a blog called Atlas Shrugs, has said she's not concerned that her ad could spark protests like the ones against the depiction of Muslims in the video "Innocence of Muslims." Violence linked to the movie has left dozens in seven countries dead, including the American ambassador to Libya.

The ad was plastered on San Francisco city buses in recent weeks, prompting some people to deface the ads and remove some of the words, including "Jihad," or holy war.

Geller said the subway ads cost about $6,000. The MTA said they will be up for a month.

I wasn't familiar with neither Geller or Eltahawy before this story but from what I'm gathering, they're both extremists in their beliefs.

Below is a picture from Facebook of a Jew and a Muslim who are not extremists and have learned to co-exist without hatemongering.

muslim_and_jew.jpg

I'm wondering if the First Amendment would force the MTA to accept ads critical of the New York City Police Department because that might be a valid use of funds considering the NYPD's rampant abuse of First Amendment rights during Occupy protests.


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.

Facebook PINAC Page

You can keep up with my stories by friending me on Facebook or following me on Twitter and/or Google + or by liking the PINAC Facebook page.

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Idaho Man Tased for Attempting to Enter Courtroom with Camera

 

A man who insisted on carrying his video camera inside an Idaho courtroom was tased, handcuffed and arrested in an incident caught on video last month.

The video from his camera makes it clear he was violating state law because he had not obtained permission to record from the judge.

But it also makes it clear he did not physically batter anybody.

However, Robert Peterson was charged with three counts of battery as well as criminal contempt.

All because he wanted to document his hearing over riding a bicycle at night without lights.

Before the tasing, Peterson told bailiffs that state laws do not apply to him because he was not a person.

“I’m not a person, I’m a man,” he said at one point.

“I’m not like everybody else here,” he later said. “I’m a man , so I have rights you cannot violate without legal repercussions.”

He also threatened to sue them if they dared tase him.

Hopefully, his suit won't be as nonsensical as some of the comments he made prior to his tasing because it would get shot down quicker than he was tased.

Here is the Idaho law regarding cameras in the courtroom:

Rule 45 of the Idaho Court Administrative Rules (ICAR) allows extended coverage of all public proceedings, provided permission to cover a proceeding is obtained in advance from the presiding judge, and ICAR Rule 46 provides guidelines for the use of cameras in appellate proceedings.

In trial courts, the presiding judge may prohibit coverage or order that the identity of a participant be concealed when such coverage would have a substantial adverse effect upon that participant. Coverage of the jury, adoptions, mental health proceedings and other proceedings closed to the public is prohibited. Permission to photograph or broadcast a proceeding must be sought, in advance, from the presiding judge. Electronic flash or artificial lighting is prohibited, and the television camera may not “give any indication of whether it is operating”. Only one still photographer and one camera operator is permitted in the courtroom, and any pooling arrangements must be made by the media.

Pursuant to ICAR Rule 46(a), cameras may be set up or taken down in the press box overlooking the Supreme Court Courtroom as long as they do not distract from the judicial proceedings.� Flash photography or the use of additional lighting for video photography is prohibited. The court will provide an audio feed for television cameras and audio recorders, but no separate microphones may be used.

Authority: Rules 45 & 46, Idaho Court Administrative Rules.


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.

Facebook PINAC Page

You can keep up with my stories by friending me on Facebook or following me on Twitter and/or Google + or by liking the PINAC Facebook page.

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Austin Police Revealing Pattern of Abuse Against Citizens who Record

The Austin Police Department introduced a “training bulletin” last month meant to educate officers on how to legally deal with citizens who record them in public.

But all it did was allow officers to create their own laws in order to justify arresting these citizens.

And that was probably the intent of it considering they are dealing with a growing number of activists who record them in public, including one incident in which activist Antonio Buehler outed an undercover cop on video last month.

That same cop, Justin Berry, arrested Buehler two nights later while in uniform, marking the second time since January that Buehler had been arrested for recording cops.

It was an obvious case of retaliation for the video that exposed him in a popular bar area targeting young, underage women who were consuming alcohol.

Two days later, Austin police sent out the memo stating that even though citizens have the right to record them in public, police have the right to arrest them for “interference of public duties” if they don’t move back when ordered – even if they are already standing at a respectable and reasonable distance from the investigation as Buehler was during his second arrest.

They then announced that they are working on a policy that would prevent citizens from recording them from within 50 feet, which shows their audacity towards the Constitution.

Even though they eventually had to admit there was no legal way they could enforce a 50 foot rule, they stated they would leave it up to the officers as to how far back citizens should stand when recording.

So it’s not surprising that police arrested Buehler a third time last Friday while he was recording a DUI traffic stop.

Then they arrested his friend, Sarah Dickerson, for recording the arrest.

Although police confiscated and have yet to return their cameras, both arrests were captured on video by a third activist who was standing further back, which you can view above.

All three activists are members of the Peaceful Streets Project, an organization launched by Buehler after his first arrest in the early hours of New Year’s Day where he is still facing ten years in prison for allegedly spitting in the face of an Austin police officer named Pat Oborski.

The January incident was unknowingly caught on video by a random citizen across the street, which revealed that Oborski was assaulting Buehler rather than the other way around as he had written in his report.

Buehler, 35, is a West Point graduate who became an army lieutenant before earning an MBA from Stanford, so he’s not afraid of a challenge.

He has been relentless in shining a light on police abuse, building a huge following while doing it.

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Third Arrest

Oborski, the cop who arrested him in January, was also involved in his latest arrest Friday in which Buehler and Dickerson were standing well away from the DUI investigation he was conducting.

The exchange between the two begins shortly after the traffic stop when Oborski orders Buehler through his car’s PA system to back up.

“Mr Buehler, I need you to back up.”

“How far?” Buehler responds.

“Back up until I tell you to stop.”

Buehler and Dickerson back up to where they are barely visible in the video while another officer walks up to them.

Meanwhile, Oborski leads the woman through a series of roadside sobriety tests without any interference from the two activists.

Almost six minutes into the video - when it is clear that Buehler and Dickerson were not physically interfering nor were they verbally addressing the woman or Oborski - they were handcuffed and arrested.

Then they were escorted through the investigation they were supposedly interfering with.

Police confiscated their cameras, making it three confiscated cameras that they now have in their possession, including the one they still have from his second arrest.

“They say they are holding them for evidentiary value but it’s obvious they are holding them to suppress evidence,” Buehler said in a telephone interview with Photography is Not a Crime.

It is also obvious they are not adhering to the 11-page guidelines drafted by the U.S. Department of Justice drafted earlier this year.

Mickey Osterreicher, general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association, reviewed the training bulletin issued by Austin police and issued the following statement:

“Aside from being overly broad and vague the APD policy leaves far too much to the discretion of its officers, whereby they can construe almost anything as ‘interference.’ While First Amendment protections may be subject to reasonable time, place and manner restrictions, the language of the order allows officers to direct others to comply in almost any way they see fit. It is unfortunate that the order begins in the right spirit reminding officers ‘that it is lawful for a person to videotape or photograph a police officer who is in public’ and that they ‘should not tell a person to stop videotaping the officer, or other public servant, as long as the person is not interfering with the public servant’s duties’ but then goes on to allow them to do so without properly defining ‘interference.’

In most jurisdictions such interference must be physical in nature, not just vague terms such as ‘interrupts, disrupts, impedes, or otherwise interferes with’ that are left to an officer’s sole discretion. Under these rules officers are free to create a chilling effect upon far more speech (photography/recording is deemed a form of speech for First Amendment protections) than is necessary to achieve a substantial government interest – that being actual interference with a police officer in the execution of his duties – and would thus be held to be unconstitutional. Even the LAPD new policy on Suspicious Activity Reporting, which the NPPA along with other groups objected to, includes language that requires officers to articulate facts and circumstances that support probable cause or reasonable suspicion ‘that the behavior observed is not innocent, but rather reasonably indicative of criminal activity’ such as ‘interference.’

It is important to note that while ‘it is a defense to prosecution under this section that the interruption, disruption, impediment, or interference alleged consisted of speech only’ that still will not protect someone from being arrested in the first place. Also if viewed in proper context ‘speech only’ could be interpreted to include photography and recording.

Finally in its very liberal recitation of ‘exigent circumstances’ it is not surprising that the policy states ‘a search warrant should be obtained before viewing the recorded images, video, or sound;’ when it should actually read ‘a search warrant must first be obtained before viewing the recorded images, video, or sound.’”  

Osterreicher also shared these views in a letter he sent to Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo this morning.

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But the Austin Police Department will likely not be swayed considering it won a conviction last week against another activist who was arrested for interference while recording them, even though the video shows he was not verbally or physically interfering either.

In fact, they have not only have convinced jurors that these activists are a threat to their safety, they’ve convinced the local media who fail to see these arrests will eventually lead to a loss of rights for themselves.

So perhaps it is time for the U.S. Department of Justice to get involved as it did with the Baltimore Police Department earlier this year, which had created its own laws when dealing with citizens who record them.

Not much different than the Austin Police Department is doing.

In fact, it was only last year that the Department of Justice closed a four-year investigation against the Austin Police Department for allegations of police abuse against minorities, concluding that it did not break any laws.

But now there is plenty of video evidence they are abusing the rights of citizens who record them.

The Department of Justice describes a process on its website encouraging victims of police abuse to file a complaint in order to spark an investigation under the “police misconduct provision,” which is described below.

The types of conduct covered by this law can include, among other things, excessive force, discriminatory harassment, false arrests, coercive sexual conduct, and unlawful stops, searches or arrests. In order to be covered by this law, the misconduct must constitute a "pattern or practice" -- it may not simply be an isolated incident. The DOJ must be able to show in court that the agency has an unlawful policy or that the incidents constituted a pattern of unlawful conduct

The process requires citizens to write a letter to Washington D.C. instead of just sending an email, which is in a little discouraging in this cyber age of laziness.

But it might be worth the trouble if we all send letters to bring awareness to what is obviously a clear pattern of abuse because it will eventually affect us all.

After all, what is happening in Austin is a microcosm of what is happening throughout the country. It needs to be stopped immediately.

Dickerson, who wrote about her arrest on her blog, placed the issue in perfect perspective.

Filming the police is integral in protecting the legal rights of activists, and it levels the playing field.  In an arrest, the police hold all power, and we must submit to the arrest, to the police brutality, to the devastating effects of the prison system on our humanity, and then we pray that we have enough money and a decent enough lawyer to get us through the legal system.  The right to film the police is the least of what we could and should be asking for. There will never be justice on scene or in the media again if we are not free to document and film those in power and to hold them accountable. What we are doing in the Peaceful Streets Project has intersectional implications, all of which rely on our First Amendment rights to free speech and to freedom of the press.  How our court cases play out will affect free speech and free press rights for all.

Here is the complaint process from the USDOJ website.

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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.

Facebook PINAC Page

You can keep up with my stories by friending me on Facebook or following me on Twitter and/or Google + or by liking the PINAC Facebook page.

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New Jersey Appellate Court Affirms Right to Record Cops in Public

Just over a year after a New Jersey judge threw out a lawsuit on the basis that cops shouldn’t be expected to know the law when it comes to recording them in public, a panel of appellate judges threw the suit back in his face, ordering him to review the case along with the First Amendment. 

The suit involves a filmmaker named Kelly Ramos who was harassed repeatedly and eventually arrested by Trenton police officer Herbert Flowers in 2006 while working on a documentary about a violent street gang.

The trial judge, who is not named in the decision or the article, based his decision on recent case law, according to Friday's appellate ruling:

The motion judge determined that Flowers was entitled to qualified immunity on the Civil Rights Act claims, because he found there was no well-established right to videotape the police at the time of the incidents involving Flowers. He relied primarily on Kelly v. Borough of Carlisle, 622 F.3d 248 (3d Cir. 2010). In that case, the Third Circuit concluded that "there was insufficient case law establishing a right to videotape police officers during a traffic stop to put a reasonably competent officer on 'fair notice' that seizing a camera or arresting an individual for videotaping police during the stop would violate the First Amendment." Id. at 262. With regard to the May 12, 2006 arrest, the judge held that Ramos's guilty plea demonstrated his acknowledgement of probable cause for his arrest. The judge entered an order granting summary judgment and dismissing the complaint.

But the appellate court based its decision on the First Amendment.

We now turn to the issue of whether Flowers' alleged interference with Ramos's efforts to create a documentary concerning gangs implicated Ramos's constitutional rights under either the federal or state constitution, or both.

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution provides, in pertinent part, as follows:

Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

In Mills v. Alabama, 384 U.S. 214, 219, 86 S. Ct. 1434, 1437, 16 L. Ed.2d 484, 488 (1966), the United States Supreme Court noted that the language of the First Amendment "specifically selected the press, which includes not only newspapers, books, and magazines, but also humble leaflets and circulars, see Lovell v. Griffin, 303 U.S. 444[, 58 S. Ct. 666, 82 L. Ed. 949 (1938)], to play an important role in the discussion of public affairs." The First Amendment has also been interpreted to protect the media's right to gather news. See Richmond Newspapers, Inc. v. Virginia, 448 U.S. 555, 576, 100 S. Ct. 2814, 2827, 65 L. Ed.2d 973, 989 (1980); Branzburg v. Hayes, 408 U.S. 665, 681, 92 S. Ct. 2646, 2656, 33 L. Ed.2d 626, 639 (1972) ("[W]ithout some protection for seeking out the news, freedom of the press could be eviscerated.").

Here is a detailed narrative from the appellate decision of what took place.

Ramos contends that he had five encounters with the Trenton Police during the time he was filming the activities of various members of the "Sex Money Murder" Bloods sect, one of the largest Bloods gang units in Trenton. Three of the encounters involved Flowers. He alleges that Flowers' actions during those three encounters interfered with his constitutional rights to free speech and assembly, as well as his right to be free from unlawful police search and seizure.

On May 12, 2006, Ramos attended a birthday party in Trenton. Several known gang members were also in attendance. They were socializing and drinking alcohol "out front of private property." When the Trenton police arrived at the scene, Ramos was filming and "had positioned his vehicle in such a way so that its headlights shone on the participants of the party." Ramos explained what he was doing to the police. Nevertheless, Ramos was arrested and charged with obstructing traffic, contrary to N.J.S.A. 39:4-67; improper parking, contrary to N.J.S.A. 39:4-135; leaving an unattended vehicle running, contrary to N.J.S.A. 39:4-137; and obstructing a public passage on a sidewalk, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:33-7.

In another incident that occurred shortly thereafter, Ramos was "filming on a public sidewalk and creating no hazard or interference with anyone else. Trenton Police Officers arrived at the scene . . . and very sternly demanded [that Ramos] turn his camera off."

On May 20, 2006, Ramos was driving in Trenton, "again in the process of obtaining video for the documentary." Police officers pulled him over when they noticed that he was filming. They cited Ramos for improperly parking within an intersection, contrary to N.J.S.A. 39:4-138(a). According to Ramos, he was only parked within the intersection because he had been pulled over by the police.

On July 2, 2006, Ramos arrived at a Trenton park where police officers were "shutting down" a barbeque attended by a large number of known gang members. Ramos started filming the interaction between the police and the gang members. He was asked by the police to move across the street, but allowed to continue filming once he did so.

Approximately ten minutes after Ramos had relocated, Flowers approached him and told him that "something would happen to him" if he did not stop filming. Flowers also told him that he was going to investigate his "so-called" documentary. Nevertheless, Ramos continued filming from across the street and only stopped when he had finished.

On July 6, 2006, the Trenton police responded to a call from the Trenton Public Library to investigate a meeting being held by known gang members on its premises. One of Ramos's sources gave him a tip that he should go to the library to film the events as they unfolded. Once Ramos arrived at the library, Flowers told him he was interfering with a police investigation, adding: "I am sick of you already, I am sick of seeing you, I do not want to hear you anymore, you are not allowed here anymore." Ramos asserts that Flowers grabbed his video camera and put it in his car. Flowers then told Ramos: "If I see you again . . . I am locking you up and I don't care what for . . . you better not let me see you again . . . watch what happens."

Ramos contends that he stopped working on his documentary after the July 6 encounter at the library because he feared Flowers would arrest him for no reason and ruin his life. Ramos subsequently licensed some of his gang footage to the History Channel, for which he was paid. He does not allege that he suffered any emotional distress, physical harm, or damage to his property.

In January 2007, the citations Ramos received on May 12, 2006 were dismissed, with one exception. The citation for obstructing a sidewalk was downgraded to a city ordinance violation, after which Ramos pled guilty and paid a fine.

The Bergen Record picks up the narrative from there:

Though Ramos eventually pleaded guilty to violating a lesser charge in connection with the May arrest, he sued Flowers – along with the city of Trenton, the police department and the police director – in 2008, alleging violations of the New Jersey Civil Rights Act of 2006.

A trial judge threw out the case, saying that Flowers was protected from suits while acting as a police officer because he couldn’t have known that Flowers was permitted to film police activity.

The appellate judges disagreed, noting that police officers do enjoy immunity from most lawsuits but writing that “a reasonable police officer in 2006 could not have believed he had the absolute right to preclude Ramos from videotaping any gang activities.”

“A documentary about a subject of public interest, such as urban gangs, is a form of investigative journalism,” the court added. “For that reason, those activities are protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and by the New Jersey Constitution.”

Read the amicus brief filed by the ACLU here. The documentary was sold to the History Channel and can be viewed in its entirety on five Youtube videos.


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.

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Broward Deputy Fired More Than a Year After Stealing Woman's Cell Phone

It took more than a year, but a Broward County sheriff’s deputy was fired for stealing a woman’s cell phone because she wouldn’t stop video recording him in a case of road rage.

But Paul Pletcher is not going to let that stop him from trying to get his job back.

However, Pletcher is also facing 11 years in prison for the incident, so he might want to place his energy in maintaining his freedom instead of his job.

But this is a man who was not even in uniform or on-duty when he jumped out of his truck and confronted a pair of women in another car at a traffic light.

So he is not exactly the brightest of the bunch.

paul_pletcher.jpg

According to the South Florida Sun Sentinel:

The seven-year veteran is still awaiting trial on charges of burglary, battery, criminal mischief and petty theft. He is pleading not guilty.

Pletcher, 38, was terminated July 26 for conduct unbecoming an employee and failing to obey the law, say documents released to the Sun Sentinel this week.

He is seeking arbitration to get his job back, said Alberto Milian, Pletcher's attorney.

"The Sheriff's Office is treating him unfairly," Milian said. "They are depriving him of his job when he has not even been found guilty. Normally when you get accused of a crime, you get your day in court."

At a hearing on Friday, Milian asked Broward Circuit Judge Michael Usan for more time to prepare for trial. Usan set the next hearing for Dec. 7.

So his attorney is complaining that his client has not had his day in court while asking the judge to postpone that day in court.

But that’s not surprising considering the overwhelming video evidence against him in which he continually demands the woman to hand over the phone.

"Give me the phone now or else you're going to jail,” he tells her before the video goes black because Neyda Osorio stuffed it into her purse.

According to police reports, when Pletcher realized he was being recorded, he demanded Osorio's phone. Osorio put the phone in her purse, but Pletcher put his arm across her neck, reached into her purse and grabbed the phone. He then told her to pull into a bank parking lot. As she pulled in, she noticed him driving off with her phone and driver's license.

Plantation officers found the phone in two pieces near the spot where Pletcher pulled over Osorio.

But despite all this evidence, it still took seven months for him to be officially charged, which was when he taken off paid administrative leave and suspended without pay.

So it’s no wonder he believes he can get his job back.

After all, look at what he has gotten away with already, according to the Huffington Post.

Osorio's lawyers told NBC Miami that Pletcher did the exact same thing to another woman three years ago. And in 2007, he was involved in an accident, in which a motorcyclist died. His initial application to join BSO was rejected thanks to his questionable driving record, which includes a 1995 citation for driving 105 mph in a 55-mph zone.


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.

Facebook PINAC Page

You can keep up with my stories by friending me on Facebook or following me on Twitter and/or Google + or by liking the PINAC Facebook page.

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