Home / PINAC News / Boston Boondoggle Hearing Postponed Until Next Week as Internet Criticism Grows

Boston Boondoggle Hearing Postponed Until Next Week as Internet Criticism Grows

Boston_Police_patch

On a day when multiple news outlets and websites harshly criticized Boston police for bringing up felony charges against myself and a PINAC associate for attempting to hold them accountable, a police attorney asked for a continuance in the hearing.

Now the hearing is scheduled for Friday of next week, giving police an extra week to ponder over how they will proceed with their complaint while giving the internet an extra week to mercilessly mock the Boston Police Department for the boondoggle it has brought upon itself.

Not to mention an extra week of citizens calling the public information office to inquire about the case, challenging Detective Nick Moore to follow through on his threat to charge them all with witness intimidation.

Surely, this is not going as they had expected.

Our attorney, David Duncan, gave us the news this evening, insinuating that the police department must have something up its sleeve, but not exactly clear on what it is.

But it’s clear that they realized they were not going to be able to drive this through as they had expected, especially when they saw how quickly we were able to raise the money to hire one of the most respectable lawyers in Boston.

They should also be aware that Boston civil attorneys have already begun reaching out to PINAC for a possible lawsuit against the department once the charges are dropped.

But I’m not going to get ahead of myself here because Taylor Hardy and I are still facing charges of illegal wiretapping and witness intimidation, charges that bring maximum sentences of five years and ten years respectively.

We’ve raised $4,217 so far with four hours to go in the campaign, more than $2,000 over our initial goal of $2,200 to hire Duncan to attend the hearing. Click here to donate or donate in the right-hand column of this site as the Indiegogo campaign is winding down.

If the magistrate clerk finds enough probable cause to lead to an indictment, then we’ll have to pay Duncan an additional $6,000 to attend an additional three hearings, which may not even include the actual trial, so the extra money is comforting.

If it doesn’t go to trial, then the extra money can be used for a PINAC-related project that we will discuss in the future that would include PINAC editors Joel Chandler and Jeff Gray.

While we’ve seen the illegal wiretapping charge abused by several police agencies over the years, this is the first time a police department has attempted to use a witness intimidation charge against a journalist for encouraging citizens to petition the government for redress of grievances, which is Constitutionally protected behavior.

Hopefully, this will be the last time.

Now here’s a sampling of what has been written about the case so far:

The Washington Times :

Public officials, including police officers, cannot be allowed to use their offices to insulate themselves from scrutiny or criticism, even harsh criticism. The law protects the public from being hurt by the bad guys, even with badges. From this distance, neither Mr. Hardy nor Mr. Miller appears to have done anything but bruise an ego or two. The real offense appears to be the abuse of the judicial system to intimidate. We hope the court explains this to the misbehaving cops, and why they can’t be allowed to do that.

Techdirt:

The BPD has managed to dig itself a colossal hole in a very short period of time and it looks as if it has no interest in relinquishing its many shovels. Ordering someone from Miami (where Miller lives) to face charges in Boston over something so legally specious as declaring the posting of publicly available numbers to be “witness intimidation” is a prime example of how far some police officers will go to avoid having to admit they screwed up.

The longer this bizarrely wrongheaded crusade against the First Amendment continues, the longer the Boston Police Dept. will have to deal with irate citizens from all over the nation contacting itspublic phone numbers to complain about its intimidating actions. A simple apology and an offer to drop charges would have done wonders for the PD several days ago, but now, it’s far too late. Detective Moore’s actions — basically declaring that contacting BPD’s public numbers is a criminal act — have put him and those involved in a position that only allows them to actively make things worse. The bells have been rung and no amount of additional LEO blustering will un-ring them.

The National Press Photographers Association:

NPPA President Mike Borland said he’s astonished that it has come to this.

“It’s mind boggling that there are still law enforcement officers in major metropolitan departments who don’t know they can be photographed doing their job in public,” Borland said, “It’s downright maddening the steps being taken in Boston as a result of this ignorance. This snowball of a public relations disaster would not be happening if officers were properly trained and then properly disciplined when they break the rules.”

The Newspaper Guild:

In fact, it is the Boston Police Department that is trying to intimidate Miller and anyone else who attempts to exercise their First Amendment rights by shining a light on the department and officers’ conduct.

Demanding transparency from the most powerful of civic agencies is the right of all people and the responsibility of journalists and other watchdogs.

A Boston magistrate judge will determine at a hearing scheduled for Thursday whether there is probable cause to proceed with indictments against Miller and Hardy.

In the strongest possible terms, The Newspaper Guild urges the city to drop these spurious charges.

To the citizens of Boston, we urge you to let police and city officials know that you will not stand for these or any further abuses of power.

Ed Brayton:

So let me get this straight. They’re charging him with felony witness intimidation for encouraging the public to contact a public information officer to protest police intimidation of a journalist over his “crime” of reporting to the public what was said by a public information officer. It’s hard to imagine a more clear-cut case of police intimidation of journalists. Every single person involved should be fired. Immediately.

Popehat:

Indeed — an act of intimidation is involved. But it’s an act of intimidation by the BPD, which is sending a clear message about how it will handle citizen dissent.

What a accomplishment: the Boston Police Department has discovered a way to make it a crime for citizens to contact the person it designates to talk to citizens.

Simple Justice:

I’m not privy to Carlos’ plans, but there is no doubt he’s a fighter.  Neither Richardson nor Moore would have likely anticipated the embarrassment they brought on their department by making themselves look like such worthless, fragile twinkies, but if they thought they could intimidate Carlos (and perhaps the rest of the internet) into behaving as they command, they made a grave mistake.

The Digital Media Law Project:

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One could be tempted, in the effort to craft a tidy narrative, to compare what happened in the police encounter with the videographer that started all of this to what happened afterward with the police and Photography Is Not A Crime. In both cases, something that would have been a normal, everyday encounter if done by a member of the institutional press – recording an arrest or contacting the Bureau of Public Information for information about an arrest – is transformed into something viewed (incorrectly) as foreign, and therefore, in the eyes of the police, dangerous, which leads the police to act unreasonably and unlawfully.

I just came across this petition asking them to drop the complaints on our behalf, so I’m curious as to how much sway it has.

About Carlos Miller

Carlos Miller is founder and publisher of Photography is Not a Crime, which began as a one-man blog in 2007 to document his trial after he was arrested for photographing police during a journalistic assignment. He is also the author of The Citizen Journalist's Photography Handbook, which can be purchased through Amazon.