Not that they planned on openly breaking any laws, but they did plan on video recording traffic stops, chalking sidewalks in front of police stations and basically do all they can to remind cops that badges don’t grant extra rights.
And as many of us have learned, that runs the risk of landing in jail.
But even they were caught off-guard when a cop in Kansas arrested Mueller Friday night for a felony warrant out of Montana.
While Mueller, 33, has been arrested multiple times over the years for his police accountability activism, the only felonies he has faced were for wiretapping.
And while Montana is one of 12 all-consent states, meaning it is illegal to secretly record others who have an expectation of privacy, it is unlikely Mueller would put himself in that position again after spending 90 days in a New Hampshire jail in 2012 for recording public officials in a telephone interview without informing them.
But we later learned there was no felony warrant out of Montana. Instead, it was a misdemeanor warrant out of Indiana. A warrant for criminal mischief for allegedly spray painting graffiti on a sidewalk in front of the Noblesville Police Department.
It was actually spray chalk, which like regular chalk, can be washed away with a water hose or an autumn rainfall. Slogans like “badges don’t grant extra rights,” “who watches the watchers?” and “who do you call when cops murder?”.
Just the type of rhetoric that would drive cops to fabricate facts in order to score an arrest.
Sumner, who was not arrested, said he also has a warrant out for his arrest from the same incident, but because he was riding passenger, they never asked for his identification.
“We had both received letters back home telling us we were being charged for criminal mischief,” he said in a telephone interview with Photography is Not a Crime Saturday.
The letters were sent out after they were detained September 30, one day before they kicked off the Mobile Accountability of Cops tour where they planned to drive a 1980 GMC Tioga recreational vehicle nicknamed MAC through several states to promote police accountability.
But after learning of the letters from friends back home, they did not think it would lead to an arrest warrant.
In fact, they had been purposely driving around a car in Shawnee, Kansas with only one operable headlight as they recorded police making traffic stops in the hopes they would get pulled over.
The idea was that they would then ask the cop to change the light for them, which they had already purchased and were keeping in the car. It would make a great video, they figured. A prank on cops.
Except the video took an unexpected turn when the Shawnee police officer who pulled them over for the missing headlight conducted a warrant check on the driver and discovered there was a warrant out for Mueller’s arrest. A felony warrant. Possibly out of Montana.
“Mr. Mueller, I need you to step out of your vehicle please,” said the Shawnee police officer.
“How come?” Mueller asked.
“I need to talk to you back here,” the cop said.
“Am I going to jail, I guess?” Mueller asked, having been through this before.
“Unfortunately. I need you to step out,” the cop said, opening his door.
Mueller reluctantly cooperated and within seconds, was being patted down, frisked and handcuffed as Sumner recorded from a sidewalk.
“We don’t mind you guys recording as long as you don’t rush in,” the cop told Sumner.
“I respect what you guys are doing on videotaping and I would say videotape everything.”
The reason the cops initially thought the warrant was out of Montana was because Mueller registered his license plate through that state since it offers registration for life on recreational vehicles instead of requiring RV owners to register annually.
Had it truly been a felony warrant, Mueller would have remained in jail until the warrant-issuing law enforcement agency sends officers to transport him back.
But because it’s a misdemeanor, the Nobleville Police Department is not going to spend the time and money to fetch him.
Perhaps they would if Shawnee was not three states away; a drive of about 520 miles through Illinois and Missouri before crossing the border into Kansas.
But the fact that the Nobleville police officers didn’t even bother arresting them when they had the chance indicates they know they’re on shaky grounds to make an arrest.
On September 30, hours after Mueller and Sumner had chalked up the Nobleville Police Department and minutes after downing some burgers at White Castle, they walked back out to MAC and found themselves surrounded by a group of Nobleville police officers.
The cops told them they were investigating a case of vandalism, specifically spray-painted graffiti on the sidewalk in front of their department, slogans that matched the slogans plastered on the Cop Blocking RV parked in a Walmart parking lot.
The cops acknowledged that some of the slogans were done in chalk and did not appear too concerned about those.
But they claimed there was also some done with spray paint, which is much harder to remove.
As you can see in the video below, both Mueller and Sumner handed over their identifications, even though at first they debated whether the cops had that right.
It was pretty evident that had they not provided identification, they would have ended up in jail. And because they were officially kicking off the MAC Tour the following day in neighboring Illinois, they wanted to be on their way.
But that is how the Nobleville police officers were able to send letters to their respective mailing addresses in California and New Hampshire, which they learned about while on the road.
However, they believe that by using chalk to write their slogans on the sidewalk, they are exercising their First Amendment right to express themselves because the chalk washes away, leaving no permanent damage.
But the courts don’t necessarily agree with them.
Mueller was convicted of criminal mischief for chalking the walls and sidewalks outside a New Hampshire police department, spending 60 days in jail in 2012. It really wasn’t a good year for him.
And Sumner was convicted in July for chalking a police statue in California in 2014, paying a fine and receiving a year of unsupervised probation, which means the charge in Indiana could possibly result in a probation violation for the 26-year-old Fresno man who spent more than three years in the army before become an activist.
Nevertheless, they truly believe chalking is not a crime and even offer tips on how to do it effectively.
Grabbing a couple sticks of chalk and adding them to your daily essential, is a light, effective and cheap way to leave colorful messages everywhere you go. Its interactive and fun. Due to the fact that chalk is water-soluble and causes no damage you have almost free range to quickly scrawl a phrase or create intense chalk art. Often times people are curious enough to ask you what you are doing? Or why you are doing it? This will open up the door for a conversation about how “Badges Don’t Grant Extra Rights” Your chalk masterpiece will display your message all of the way up until someone cleans it up. Chalk is also inflammatory. When opinions clash, dialogue follows. Start a conversation in your community about police misconduct with chalk today.
Meanwhile, it appears as if Mueller has another warrant out for his arrest, one from Ohio over a jaywalking incident in May where a power-tripping cop from Columbus drove up to him and demanded his identification after he crossed the street.
Mueller and friends had been recording a police checkpoint where cops said they were looking for drunk drivers. But cops kept giving them the evil eye and eventually told Mueller and his buddies they had to move their cars, which were parked at a nearby gas station.
The cops claimed it was at the request of the gas station manager, but it was obvious the cops pressured the gas station into asking the cars to be removed.
Mueller crossed the street after seeing a break in traffic, about 20 feet from the crosswalk, and was walking back to his car to move it when he was accosted by the cop.
Mueller vowed from the beginning that he was not going to court or pay any fines associated with the incident.
I didn’t go to court, nor do I intend to pay this ticket, if the Columbus police want to take money from me they’re going to have to do it by force. Or they’ll have to force taxpayers to pay when they lock me up for failure to pay this extortion ticket. Either way, I don’t care, because I know how to safely cross the road and cops shouldn’t be worrying about things like this. I know I’m not.
And he stuck to that promise, according to court records out of Ohio, that show a bench warrant was issued for his arrest on July 1 after he failed to pay a $148 fine.
Mueller is from Wisconsin and has a mailing address in New Hampshire but was living in Ohio up until the last week of September and plans to be on the road until March of next year.
They were scheduled to be in Oklahoma this weekend, but with Mueller incarcerated in the Johnson County jail in Kansas, things got a little sidetracked.
Bail has been set at $4,000 or they can pay an $800 bond as long as they find somebody local willing to put up the collateral. Sumner says he has the $800 but needs to find the local with the collateral.
If anybody reading this is interesting in helping out, please email Sumner at email@example.com. There is also the Free Ademo Facebook group that went up to keep up with the latest developments.
Chances are, Mueller will see a judge on Monday, who will determine if he can be released on his own recognizance, which means the warrant remains active, turning the Freeman into a fugitive.
Be sure to check out the videos below pertaining to this article.
UPDATED: Mueller has been released as he explains in this video.