An Alabama grand jury refused to bring charges against citizen journalist Keith “Bama Camera” Golden for posting a video of his encounter with the Wetumpka Police Department, which led to his arrest after hundreds of viewers called the department to complain.
The grand jury returned a “no bill” in a host of charges including a felony charge for posting the video along with public phone numbers of the police department and city officials.
Golden, under legal advice from his lawyer, has been given instruction to not speak to the media until the case is closed completely.
Golden live streamed the entire incident where it was quickly picked up by PINAC and other media outlets.
The video quickly went viral where officers demanded his identification and wanted to know what he was doing.
Things got out of control as the officer who initiated contact stated “I don’t care about your First Amendment rights” and continued to demand Golden’s identification.
The officer then grabbed Golden’s camera and turned it off, luckily he had setup Bambuser and was live streaming the encounter. The officer then told Golden he was detained. The officers on scene frisked Golden and released him.
But what wasn’t seen on the video is how officers then followed him to his car and pulled him over demanding his identification once more, this time without cause as Golden had already identified himself.
But this time, they wanted his government-issued identification.
The actions of Wetumpka police were clearly unconstitutional, which is what led to subscribers of his YouTube channel as well as PINAC readers to call flood the department, which is protected by the First Amendment under the “right to petition government for redress of grievances” provision.
Those calls led to the felony charges of “Interference with Public Safety Communications” even though Golden never made a single call to the police.
The ACLU weighed in on the charges against Golden, expressing grave concern and an unprecedented act of charging someone who had never made any calls to the department.
The Wetumpka Herald also weighed in, saying “the police department made the bone-headed move of digging themselves a deeper hole to climb out of by charging Golden.”
The backlash was so strong that Wetumpka police were forced to delete its Facebook page as internet users began to complaint about how the incident was handled and rated the department with one star.
But Wetumpka police refused to back down, persuading a judge to sign a search warrant to seize Golden’s electronic devices as they searched for evidence to support the felony charges already leveled.
According to Alabama law, warrants are required to be returned to the clerk’s office within 10 days of service of the warrant. The warrant was returned nearly a month later on July 13 according to the clerk’s office.
The warrant was signed by District Judge Glenn Goggans for electronic devices which would show that Golden conspired to flood phone lines in electronic communications.
Details in the warrant, which can be read here, revealed police tried to connect citizen journalist David Warden of News Now Houston to the alleged crime because he posted a video calling for his subscribers to petition their government for remedy and redress of grievances.
Judge Goggans, police and city of Wetumpka have grossly overstepped their bounds to prove a point; that you may beat the charges, but you can’t beat the ride.
Their abuse of the legal system and a judge’s poor understanding of the law allowed the City and the Wetumpka Police to maliciously attempt to prosecute Golden, even as many legal analyst tried to explain it doesn’t work that way.
Golden isn’t speaking but we envision a lawsuit will end up teaching them a costly lesson. Meanwhile, the Wetumpka Police Department has restored its Facebook page.
The Wetumpka Herald were the first to break the story of the grand jury’s decision in an article which you can read here.