A video was posted on Youtube this week showing heavily militarized police from an armored car raiding a man’s home for apparently having video recorded his own court hearing in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
The video was recorded by a camera sitting inside a garage as the cops ordered the man and a woman outside, ordering them to get down on their knees, treating them as if they could at any moment unleash a hail of bullets towards the cops hiding behind bulletproof shields.
The cops apparently didn’t realize they were being recorded as they entered the home of Adam Swieciaszek, a Polish native and Scranton city council candidate with a tendency to rabble-rouse.
According to his Youtube description:
Bringing (connected) dude’s along for a arrest warrant, seizing property without owners consent. Thats how things are done in Scranton, PA i guess they think they are above the law. This is how taxpayer’s money is spent in scranton,Pa to arm SPD like they are going to a war…. This is how they arrested me because i taped a magistrate hearing without the consent of the magistrate, i Guess they needed snipers in the trees Ar-15’s and about 20 officers and detectives to come and get me.
I reached out to Swieciaszek for details, but he has so far not responded. However, a quick Google search came up with a news article from last year stating the following, suggesting the raid could very well have been for recording a magistrate hearing.
A Scranton man accused of secretly recording court proceedings before Magisterial District Judge Paul J. Ware waived his right to a preliminary hearing Monday.
In a summary trial before Judge Ware in May, Adam Swieciaszek, 32, 415 Marion St., was found not guilty of criminal mischief after he was accused of taking an ax to his ex-girlfriend’s car in March. Mr. Swieciaszek’s ex-girlfriend did not appear in court.
Unknown to Judge Ware, during the summary trial Mr. Swieciaszek videotaped their exchange, which is a felony.
A video showing the not-guilty disposition and follow-up conversation between the judge and the defendant was posted to YouTube by “polishadam28” the same day court records list the disposition being filed.
The video’s title, “Sprawa za wybicie Melissy szyby siekiera .. NOT GUILTY” was translated by University of Scranton physics professor Andrew Berger, Ph.D., who is fluent in Polish, to “Court Proceedings of Melissa’s case of car window breaking with an ax.. NOT GUILTY.”
At the end of the video, the person recording the proceedings turns the device around and records his face.
Detectives received the information on Oct. 25 and arrested Mr. Swieciaszek. Judge Ware told detectives that he neither gave permission nor knew the proceedings were being recorded.
Mr. Swieciaszek was charged with intercepting communications, a felony. He remains in Lackawanna County Prison in lieu of $45,000 bail. He is scheduled to be formally arraigned Dec. 20.
Although the initial arrested for recording the hearing was reported widely by the local media – without a single site pointing out that ones needs to have an expectation of privacy in order to be a victim under the law – nothing came up as far as the outcome of that case, which gives you an idea of lapdog media in that area.
But the Digital Media Law Project breaks down the law for us:
Pennsylvania’s wiretapping law is a “two-party consent” law. Pennsylvania makes it a crime to intercept or record a telephone call or conversation unless all parties to the conversation consent. See 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 5703 (link is to the entire code, choose Title 18, Part II, Article F, Chapter 57, Subchapter B, and then the specific provision).
The law does not cover oral communications when the speakers do not have an “expectation that such communication is not subject to interception under circumstances justifying such expectation.” See 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 5702 (link is to the entire code, choose Title 18, Part II, Article F, Chapter 57, Subchapter A, and then the specific provision). Therefore, you may be able to record in-person conversations occurring in a public place without consent. However, you should always get the consent of all parties before recording any conversation that common sense tells you is private.
So Judge Ware, who graduated from the University of Scranton before heading off to Delaware to pursue a law degree at the University of Widener, was obviously clueless about this expectation of privacy provision.
Either that or he believes his courtroom is a private sanctuary.
The Google search also revealed Swieciaszek was arrested in 2009 for attacking a man, then telling cops his name was “Adam bin Laden” and saying “this is why America sucks and it should be bombed.”
That arrest prompted a local journalist to compliment cops for not hospitalizing him.
As soon as I read the story in the newspaper, I knew that Adam Swieciaszek was in for big, big trouble.
Getting into a fight in Scranton is one thing. Even battling the cops when they try to arrest you at the scene is easily explained away in some neighborhoods. But making the crack that Adam made is never a good idea in hard coal country.
“This is why America sucks and it should be bombed,” police report Adam as saying as they took him into custody.
Then, when police asked his name, he identified himself as Adam Bin Laden.
The 28-year-old Green Ridge man is lucky that officers didn’t Taze him or just shoot him outright. Scranton cops do not respond well to taunts to their nation. But give the officers credit here. Nobody delivered Adam to an emergency room or a hospital morgue.
But Swieciazek is not letting any of that get in the way of running for city council.
UPDATE: During a telephone conversation with Photography is Not a Crime, Swieciaszek said he spent ten days in jail following the arrest, then ended up pleading down from a felony to a misdemeanor count of disorderly conduct, where he served three months probation.
However, it was only this week that police returned his camera and computer, which is why he waited this long to upload the video.
“They didn’t even have a search warrant, they only had an arrest warrant,” he said.
He said he placed the camera in the garage to record when he heard the cops yelling through their megaphones.
“I thought they had the wrong house,” he said. “I wasn’t sure what this was for.”
Swieciaszek said he recorded the hearing in June, holding an iPhone in his hand as he spoke to the judge. He uploaded it to Youtube because he has built a large following of viewers from Poland, who enjoy his channel where he talks about American culture in a very general way.
It wasn’t until October when they conducted the raid.
“If I had known it was illegal, I wouldn’t have recorded the hearing and I certainly wouldn’t have uploaded it to Youtube,” he said.
He said he removed the video under advice from his attorney.