The South Carolina town of Greer has doubled down on their police department’s blatant constitutional violations, but not how you’d expect.
The City of Greer released a body cam video- which you can see below- where the first officer on the scene admits that the man they arrested wasn’t doing anything wrong when they rolled up and started asking for identification – without a state law enabling them to conduct a “stop and identify.”
Greer town lawyer John Duggan also penned a lengthy response, admitting no less than five times, that his police officers probably violated the constitutional rights of citizen journalist Diante Valentine who was featured in PINAC News on Monday as the mysterious “Trey.”
Duggan’s main point is the kind of copaganda you’d expect from a small town police force, but carries no legal weight whatsoever:
Our country and our communities and the law enforcement agencies which protect them are facing a triple threat including: (1) mass shootings; (2) terrorists threats; and, (3) targeting of law enforcement officers.
Greer’s letter got picked up by Fox News Carolina who uncritically published the screed, and got a quote from the pro-censorship lawyer Grant Varner.
Diante Valentine was lawfully “videotaping” – as the officers called it, though we prefer the modern recording since cellphones don’t use tapes – in a public parking lot that was publicly accessible to patrons of the town’s municipal court, as well as to public servants for their official use.
Greer’s lawyer Duggan freely admitted that to be the case, meaning that that parking lot probably be would be considered a traditional expressive fora since, it’s open generally to the public for general use and pedestrian purposes.
At no time in the lengthy response does the town deny that their officers lacked any facts to support their suspicions other than Valentine using a recording device, which is not a crime.
But further down the letter, Duggan again admits that the town’s police decided their need to know Valentine’s intent overrode his stated objections to being questioned under the 5th Amendment, saying that, “Because Mr. Valentine would not respond, he was taken into custody in order to determine his identity and the motives for videotaping the building and the cars in the parking lot.”
Duggan regrets that Valentine refused to speak with the police after invoking his Fifth Amendment rights, then says how he could have chosen to cooperate.
When a citizen invokes a civil right, like the right to counsel or the right to remain silent, the only unfortunate thing is when their government doesn’t obey the law.
This case is no exception.
The town’s lawyer didn’t stop there, even though his response already exhibited an abhorrent syndrome of disdain for the Constitution which can only be described as a “foot in mouth” disease.
Duggan admitted that the town knows that Diante Valentine was recording for publication, and decided to try and defame his exercise of legitimate First Amendment rights as an attempt to “bait” the police department.
Citizen journalists around the country face similar unfounded criticisms, since police officers merely have to “not take the bait” which laypeople would call ‘doing their jobs properly.’
Moreso, the statement notes for the record undeniably that Mr. Valentine was recording for the purpose of expression, sharing and publication – which when protections of the First Amendment are strongest.
By indicating disdain for Mr. Valentine’s protected speech because of the content – ie. “bait” – it seems pretty obvious that the city is building case of bias against the content of his recordings, including the dramatic results of last week’s encounter with Greer PD Lt. Jim Holcombe
Lacking a finale at that point, Greer lawyer John Duggan dropped a big, “double down on stupid” cherry on top of the rest of the story though with his concluding argument:
It is unfortunate that, in this time of heightened security concerns for all of us and for law enforcement agencies in particular, Mr. Valentine chose to do this. It is also regrettable that he chose not to provide his name or address or reveal the reason for his behavior. He could have chosen to provide his name and address and the reason for his actions when questioned by the officers. He also could have notified the department before he started videotaping the area and the reason therefor. Had he chosen to do either, this incident could have been avoided.
Telling people they need permission fits wikipedia’s well crafted definition to a tee: “Prior restraint (also referred to as prior censorship or pre-publication censorship) is censorship imposed, usually by a government, on expression before the expression actually takes place.”
Greer lawyer Duggan’s request for prior notification from videographers and journalists a chilling prior restraint on free speech in his small town. It amounts to an official proclamation, that citizens desiring to exercise their constitutional rights, by recording video and taking photos for publication – are subject to arrest, and vigorous prosecution.
The letter ends saying, “In the event Mr. Valentine should sue, the city and the police department will vigorously defend the lawsuit. The Greer Police Department will continue to vigilantly protect the safety and security of our community.”
Rather than simply following the law, this South Carolina town lawyer has announced that he’s willing to earn as much as possible to defend the illegal behavior of Greer’s police officers.
And he’ll do that strictly at taxpayer expense too.
Probably in a losing cause.