Florida deputies warned a man that if he dared publish a video showing a prison warden snatching his camera and refusing to return it, he would be guilty of a federal crime.
That, of course, is hogwash, but it just shows the extent that law enforcement officials will go to defend other authority figures when they’ve been caught breaking the law.
The video shows George Dedos, assistant warden at the Lake City Youthful Offender Facility, confronting Jeff Gray, who was standing on public property across the street from the prison, which is owned by Corrections Corporation of America, the largest private prison company in the United States.
Dedos walks up to him and snatches his iPod, not realizing at the time that Gray had another iPod recording from his shirt pocket.
Columbia County sheriff officials respond to the incident and tell Dedos that Gray has the right to record, but they don’t come close to arresting Dedos for strong-armed robbery, which would likely have been the case had Gray snatched Dedos’ camera.
According to the incident report, which Gray obtained Monday:
Upon arrival I spoke with Assistant Warden from CCA, George Dedos, who stated that a white male, later identified as Jeffrey Gray was videotaping the facility via cell phone. George stated that he confronted Jeffrey and Jeffrey refused to stop recording, so he grabbed the cell phone. George was advised that unless the person was on CCA’s property, the person could record if he wanted to. George was also advised that if Jeffrey did publish the video, it would be a federal violation because Jeffrey was standing on federal land while videotaping without a permit, which was confirmed by forestry ranger, J. Watson.
So not only was the camera-snatching caught on video but Dedos admitted to deputies he committed the crime.
But all deputies could do was try to find a way to make Gray the guilty party, even listing him as the “suspect” in the report.
Gray posted two videos from the incident Saturday night, only hours after it took place, and I posted it on this blog early Sunday morning.
Mickey Osterreicher, general counsel from the National Press Photographers Association, explained in an email why Gray was not guilty of any violation.
I see from the “offense report” that Jeffrey Grey may have been in the Osceola Forest picnic area. While some land operated by the US Parks Department requires a permit for photography or filming the Commercial Permits Section states:“Permits are required for commercial use of the National Forests in Florida, such as filmmaking, wedding photography, and photography for use in advertising. Please contact the District Ranger’s office to determine your need for a permit and any fees that might be involved.” (see source)“It is important to note that there is no permit required for most still photography or for non-commercial filming on National Forest Lands including wilderness areas.” (see source.)My opinion is that if he did not have a permit and one was required (which should not have been the case) the most that could have happened is that he received a violation for not having a permit. I do not believe that posting such a video, especially if not for profit, would violate anything and certainly not federal law.Their warning constitutes a prior restraint on his First Amendment freedoms and would most likely be struck down as it limits far too much speech than is necessary to achieve a governmental purpose. In this case I have no idea what that purpose would be other than far exceeding their authority.
Corrections Corporation of America is not having the greatest year, having recently lost four major contracts in Idaho, Texas and Mississippi.
Gray plans to file a complaint with the state attorney’s office and his lawyer is already looking into filing a lawsuit.
Click on George Dedos’ name to send him an email.