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 .
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.
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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.
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