With shocking regularity, police throughout the United States are being allowed to use felony wiretapping charges to arrest people who happen to videotape or record them in public.
And what’s even more shocking is that in Illinois, police are actually authorized to make these arrests.
Most states have a provision where a cop must have an expectation of privacy in order for the charges to stand, not that it hasn’t stopped cops from making these arrests.
That provision was removed from the Illinois statute in 1994, according to Radley Balko’s column in the Chicago Sun-Times.
And that doesn’t spell good news for Christopher Drew, a Chicago street artist who was arrested last December after violating this law.
Drew, 59, was initially brought into the station on two city charges of not having a peddler’s license and peddling in a prohibited area.
But when police searched him, they found a digital voice recorder which had recorded the actual arrest.
So they slapped him with an additional felony eavesdropping law.
And this month, an Illinois judge rejected Drew’s motion to dismiss the case. So he is still facing between 4 to 15 years in prison.
All for recording a couple of cops who were harassing him for selling his dollar-a-piece art.
Talk about unconstitutional.
The eavesdropping law also appears to be unconstitutional in Maryland where Anthony Graber is facing two counts of felony wiretapping charges after he posted a video of an undercover cop pulling a gun on him during a traffic stop. He goes to court June 1.
And in another Maryland incident caught in the video above, police were arresting a woman at the Preakness race track while a man was videotaping them.
One cop turns to the videographer and tells him the following:
“Do me a favor and take a walk, now,” the officer says. “Do me a favor and turn that off. It’s illegal to record anybody’s voice or anything else in the state of Maryland.”
The videographer stopped recording it, but as one law professor pointed out in a WJZ.com article, once the officer acknowledged that the man was recording, it was no longer a “secret” recording, therefore, not applicable under the wiretapping law.
The last official interpretation of Maryland’s law came from the previous attorney general saying it was legal for officers to record video on dashcams.
Delegate Sandy Rosenberg is pushing the current attorney general for his opinion on whether you can record them, too.
“If he finds that there are circumstances when it’s illegal, under existing law, to tape public actions by police or other public officials, then it’s appropriate for me to introduce a bill to change that statute,” said Rosenberg, (D) District 41, Baltimore City.
So if there is no current legal opinion or law in Maryland, then why the hell is Graber still facing charges?
While many people would argue that Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour had every right to remove a newspaper photographer from a restaurant during the filming of a commercial because it was a private venue, we can’t forget that the commercial was being funded by the taxpayers of that state.
And we most definitely can’t ignore the fact that a state trooper threatened this photographer with arrest outside the venue.
It all started in the courtyard of Mary Mahoney’s restaurant in Biloxi on Friday where Barbour was filming a commercial with his wife
John Fitzhugh, a photojournalist who works at the Sun Herald in Southern Mississippi, was on the grounds taking pictures.
Barbour said he “wanted the set as quiet as possible” so he had his press secretary remove Fitzhugh.
Then once Fitzhugh was outside the venue, a state trooper threatened him with arrest if he dared take one more photo of the building.
And apparently Fitzhugh did as he was told.
Had that been me, I would snapped away and allowed me to arrest me. I’m stubborn like that.
A man known as RadioReport1 on Youtube has been waging a war against the New York City Police Department since 2007 when he claims he was “beaten, robbed and kidnapped” for taking photos.
This, of course, probably explains his antagonistic attitude towards them when they approach him while videotaping.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
It’s actually pretty humorous considering he comes across as a modern-day Travis Bickle.
While he can stand to hold a steadier camera, he doesn’t lack courage in standing up to the cops.
In the above video, he was videotaping a car accident when an Officer Floyd came up to him and started harassing him for filming the bridge behind the accident scene, as if he were a terrorist plotting to blow it up or something.
The cop comes across as a complete moron. The action starts about 1:55 into the video. It’s funny.
The two videos below were posted in 2008 where he gets in a confrontation with an NYPD officer who dared question him while videotaping and a confrontation with a K9 officer who claimed to be a private contractor.
This is how he explains the first video below:
This was the second day they had traffic stops on a busy street with no vehicle to block the lane, making an unsafe condition for the motorists they pulled over.
I was going to fix a bike on the corner and put my camera on top of a box of tools I was carying and walked past them and then back.
The officer saw the camera and came over to ask if I was filming, giving some nonsense about making sure everything was OK.
When I pressed him on why he felt something was wrong, he told me he didn’t have to explain and called over his partner in the middle of a traffic stop on a blue Mitsubishi.
At the end, I just walked away from them, but taped them again, standing in the roadway making an unsafe condition.
As I went back to my house, I turned and saw them coming after me. I ran into the first alley and escaped into a nearby basement, which they followed me into and told the owner I was wanted for questioning.
By that time I was on the roof escaping down and out to my house.
The night before, they had followed a law abiding neighbor from the store to see if the beer he bought was open as he chatted outside the house, making him turn it over.
If that wasn’t enough, they had a gunpoint robbery where the guy ran a full block in view of the surveilance tower thay had set up, putting the gun away right where I was confronted, running right past them and they couldn’t catch him.
This is the second time I’ve had to run from them in recent weeks for taking pictures not anywhere near them.
The precinct robbery car chased me for not stopping when they saw me take a picture while they were on an improper car stop.
They broke into the building and rattled all the doorknobs while leaving the motorist hanging outside.
As I was beaten robbed and kidnapped by them last year, I don’t wait around for them to erase the camera so they could lie about it as they did last year.
For the second time in less than a month, a police officer was convicted from evidence obtained from a videotape.
The first officer to be convicted was New York City Police Officer Patrick Pogan, who would never have stood trial had it not been for a video posted on Youtube showing him body slamming a bicyclist before charging him with assault on an officer.
The second officer to be convicted was Ottawa Hills (Ohio) Police Officer Thomas White, who shot a motorcyclist in the back after a traffic stop, permanently paralyzing the 24-year-old man.
The video from the dash cam shows that the motorcyclist, Michael McCloskey, appeared to be complying and was most definitely not a threat to White.
However, White stated that he feared for his life because he believed McCloskey was reaching for a gun.
Had it not been for the video, the jury would most likely have believed him.
Pogan was convicted in late April. White was convicted last week.
Next month, former Bay Area Rapid Transit Police Officer Johannes Mehserle will stand trial for shooting an unarmed man in the back in an incident caught on citizen video.
He also would most likely not be facing trial had it not been for the video tape.
It is no wonder why the Maryland State Police Department went after Anthony Graber so hard.