Home / PINAC News / Toledo Blade Sues Government Over Unlawful Detainment, Camera Confiscation and Photo Deletion

Toledo Blade Sues Government Over Unlawful Detainment, Camera Confiscation and Photo Deletion

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In a move rarely seen from the mainstream media, the Toledo Blade newspaper is suing the United States Government over last week’s incident in which armed military personnel detained two of its reporters, including a photojournalist, whose camera they confiscated and images they deleted.

All because they apparently didn’t want anybody to see where our tanks are being made.

Or more likely, the money we’re spending on the tanks we don’t need made.

Considering the amount of money that is being spent on the Joints Systems Manufacturing Center (aka Lima Army Tank Plant) and the unprofessional behavior of the armed thugs guarding it, the best thing to do would be to shut the whole plant down, sending a message to every government official in this country that we will not be treated like enemy combatants.

So good for the Toledo Blade, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winning newspaper, for filing its lawsuit Friday, an action most newspapers refrain from doing in an attempt to keep relations civil with the institutions they cover.

The lawsuit states that Blade reporter Tyler Linkhorn and photojournalist Jetta Fraser stopped in front of the plant on a public street to take some file photos for future stories the paper was planning on running when they were detained by three military police officers named Steltzer, Workman and Snyder, whose first names they were unable to obtain prior to filing the suit.

Fraser, who was sitting in the passenger’s seat, was ordered to hand over her drivers license. She showed them her press credentials, arguing that she was under no obligation to hand over her drivers license if she wasn’t driving.

She was ordered out of the car, handcuffed and patted down, remaining handcuffed for an hour while they questioned her sexuality, threatening to fondle her breasts to prove she was female, proving once again why it’s so important to record every encounter with authority figures.

According to the lawsuit:

On March 28, 2014, in a vehicle owned by The Blade and driven by Plaintiff Linkhorn with Plaintiff Fraser as a passenger, Plaintiffs Linkhorn and Fraser drove on to the public portion of the entry roadway between the guard hut and Buckeye Road. At the time, the guard hut was unoccupied, and there were no security or law-enforcement personnel otherwise visible. Plaintiff Fraser exited the vehicle for the purpose of taking file or library photos of the publicly visible portions of the Center so that the images would be readily available for later use by The Blade as needed to illustrate newspaper stories related to the Center.

Plaintiff Fraser then took several photographs from the public portion of the roadway. In each instance, the subject of the photograph was a part of the Center that was plainly visible to the public from the public streets or the public part of the Center’s entry.

Having taken the photographs, using photographic equipment owned by The Blade, Plaintiffs Fraser then returned to the vehicle, and Plaintiffs Fraser and Linkhorn began to leave. They were intercepted, however, by Defendants Stelzer, Workman, and Snyder.

These Defendants, who were armed and in military-police uniforms, then questioned Plaintiffs Fraser and Linkhorn regarding their identity, their employment, and their purposes for taking photographs. Both Plaintiffs Fraser and Linkhorn promptly identified themselves, explained that they were taking photographs for use by The Blade, and produced Defendants’ inspection documents that bore their names and photographs, and that documented their employment with The Blade.

Plaintiff Fraser had identified herself by using an employee identification card supplied by The Blade bearing her name and her photograph.. When Defendants Stelzer, Workman, and Snyder, demanded that Plaintiff Fraser produce a driver’s license, she inquired why such an identification was required since she was not driving the vehicle. Defendants Stelzer, Workman, and Snyder immediately responded by ordering her to exit the vehicle, and they then placed her in handcuffs. Defendants Stelzer, Workman, and Snyder then conducted an extensive pat-down search of her person. She was required to remain with her hands cuffed behind her back for the duration of the incident, a time totaling approximately an hour.

During this encounter, Defendants Stelzer, Workman, and Snyder repeatedly addressed and referred to Plaintiff Fraser in terms denoting the masculine gender. Plaintiff Fraser objected and requested that defendants employ an appropriate mode of address. Then, after Defendant Snyder had placed Plaintiff Fraser in handcuffs, he threatened a physical assault, saying “You say you are a female, I’m going to go under your bra.”

Plaintiffs Fraser and Linkhorn were held in custody by Defendants for up to hour and a half, during much of which time Plaintiff Fraser was handcuffed.

At the beginning of the encounter, Defendants Stelzer, Workman, and Snyder seized the cameras, memory cards, and other equipment, including a pocket-sized personal calendar and notebook, that were in the possession of Plaintiffs Fraser and Linkhorn and that were and are the property of The Blade. At no time did either Plaintiff Fraser or Plaintiff Linkhorn consent to this seizure.

Defendants Stelzer, Workman, and Snyder eventually released Plaintiffs Fraser and Linkhorn without making any charges that Plaintiffs had engaged in any unlawful activity.

Upon releasing the Plaintiffs, however, Defendants Stelzer, Workman, and Snyder retained possession of the cameras, memory cards, and other equipment that they had seized, doing so without the consent and despite the objections of Plaintiffs Fraser and Linkhorn.

Late that evening, several hours after the encounter, and only after the intervention of United States Senator Rob Portmann, Defendants permitted representatives of The Blade to recover possession of the cameras, memory cards, and other equipment that had been seized by Defendants. An inspection of these items disclosed that all of the photographs taken by Plaintiff Fraser at the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center, as well as photographs taken earlier at other locations, including all photographs of the Husky Refinery Plant, had been destroyed while the cameras and memory cards were in the possession and control of the Defendants. Plaintiffs are informed and believe, and therefore allege, that this destruction was undertaken by Defendant Michelle [Last Name Unknown], who was acting under the direction and with the assent of Defendant Hodge.

Two years ago, there were talks of shutting the plant down because the United States did not need anymore tanks. But  Portmann, the senator who was able to get the Blade back its camera gear last week, managed to secure $255 million for the plant to build more tanks through 2014, according to NPR.

But despite all that money, they were unable to train their military police to respect the rights of citizens to photograph the plant from a public street, even though those same images can be found through Google Earth, not to mention the plant can be seen by simply driving by it on a public street.

So let’s shut the plant down. We don’t need anymore tanks anyway. And we surely don’t need anymore domestic militarization.

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What we do need is for this madness to stop.

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.