University of Oregon Law Professor Snatches Camera from Student Protester (Updated)

A University of Oregon law professor was in a heated argument with a group of students protesting against Israeli and American immigration policies when he snatched a cell phone camera from a woman, placing it in his back pocket where it remained recording for several minutes.

James Olmsted, who describes himself as a “nationally recognized conservation easement attorney,”  walked up to the student and asked the tired question of “what are you going to do with it?”

She said she would do whatever she wanted with it. It is her video, after all.

He then snatched the phone and placed it in his back pocket.

The students seemed too shocked to respond. One of them said, “this is public property, what are you doing?”

Olmsted responded by saying, “this is my public property, too.”

And this is a guy who claims to be an expert in property law with 25 years of legal experience.

There are two videos from this incident, including the one above which captures the phone snatching, but cuts out immediately after that, as well as the one below which is from the student’s phone that he snatched.



In that video, the phone continues recording audio even after it’s in his pocket and you can hear the students trying to explain how they have the right to record him in public.

At one point in the second video, it sounds as if he is trying his best to antagonize the tall student from the first video by saying, “get out of my face or do something, you prick.”

Those students have much more patience than I would have had in that situation.

University of Oregon law professor James Olmsted snatched a cell phone camera from a student recording him in public.


Olmsted posted the following about himself on LinkedIn:

James L. Olmsted is a nationally recognized conservation easement attorney representing land trusts, landowners and developers in large-scale fee title and conservation easement acquisitions. His twenty-five year legal career includes extensive background in land use and zoning law, including navigating the permitting and environmental compliance processes for major multi-billion dollar golf and ski resort developments in the Lake Tahoe region of California and litigating high profile land use cases for public interest groups in Washington state. Mr. Olmsted is widely published in professional and scholarly journals. He is a frequent speaker on conservation easements and related climate change topics at conferences across the nation and has been an invited speaker at the Land Trust Alliance National Rally. Mr. Olmsted was the organizer of a national symposium on conservation easement law and policy and also the special editor of the volume of the Duke Law School Journal of Law & Contemporary Problems in which the symposium articles were published. He is an Adjunct Faculty member at the University of Oregon School of Law Environmental and Natural Resources Department (a nationally ranked top-10 environmental law program) where he teaches a course on Land Trust and Conservation Easement Law. Mr. Olmsted is licensed to practice law in California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.

UPDATE: Here is a third video.


UPDATE II: Olmsted has been arrested and reassigned from his position as a law professor.

According to KGW:

EUGENE, Ore. – A University of Oregon adjunct law professor was arrested Thursday and his teaching duties were reassigned after he aggressively confronted a group of student activists on the Eugene campus Thursday.

In a video that has been making the rounds on YouTube and other social media, 58-year-old James Olmsted is seen provoking, shoving and even snatching the cell phone out of the hands of one student.

About Carlos Miller

Carlos Miller is founder and publisher of Photography is Not a Crime, which began as a one-man blog in 2007 to document his trial after he was arrested for photographing police during a journalistic assignment. He is also the author of The Citizen Journalist's Photography Handbook, which can be purchased through Amazon.

Check Also

Over the years, Springfield police detective would happily pose with money seized from drug suspects. Now he stands accused of pocketing that money. (Photos via Mass Live)

Retired Massachusetts Cop Charged with Stealing $400,000 from Evidence Room

In 2014, Massachusetts Police Detective Kevin Burnham retired after 43 years on the job with …

  • hazy

    Not everyone with a law degree is intelligent.

  • zedge

    Law, the number one profession in the federal government. Businessmen is a close second.

  • Common Sense

    Guess he must have been absent the day they taught CRIMINAL law. Sure sounds like a robbery and theft case to me!

  • Boomer

    So the big bad adjunct law professor can’t talk with a group of students without resorting to profanity and aggressive behavior, and outright theft of personal property. What a joke.

    If my daughters were in any of his classes, I’d ask for my money back. I’m sure, as I am of anything, that doesn’t even remotely see his behavior as being questionable. How sad.

  • rick

    Excellent! I can’t wait for the follow up to this story and UO response.

    Notice when a citizen grabs a camera their actions are clearly in the wrong, but if a cop grabs a camera too many say, well maybe…

    • rick

      Gresham officer snatches camera and is defended by mainstream media. Citizen snatches camera and is arrested. God Bless America!

  • Nate GnArkansaw Landry

    It looks like the school he works at is in full damage control mode, his faculty page is missing and I’m not going to bother with his email. This guy sounds seriously unhinged and seems like someone with mental illness, his penchant for violence is going to cost that school a lot more than reputation, how the fuck can they keep someone like this on the staff?

    • Ron

      Well he has basically pissed away any future in academia now. He is an adjunct – not tenured. He can be fired for no reason or any reason. He will never teach again.

      • Difdi

        Which is probably a good thing. If a law professor is so ignorant of what the law says that he would do such a thing and consider himself in the right, he has no business teaching law.

  • DocRambo

    I caught assault, battery, and grand theft, not to mention First Degree Aggravated Assholery. They should have beaten him into the ground, the video would have shown just cause, he instigated everything, except for the tall guy actually touching him at one point.

    • scruffylookingnerfherder

      Grand theft is generally over $1000. It’s certainly simple battery.
      While law is highly specialized, one would think a lawyer would have some idea he was committing a crime.

  • writenow

    Yo Professor, you committed a crime and there’s all kinds of proof. Might be time to apologize, before said student makes a police report.

    • steveo

      Too late. Arrested at 2:41pm. Judge will probably sentence him to anger management classes. That’ll be a hoot.

  • Eugene Oregon

    Someone should educate the students that recording audio (including in a video recording) without notifying the subject IS A CRIME IN OREGON. He was the victim of that crime and had the right to stop the crime in progress and seize the evidence of such crime. Not a good idea politically or socially, of course to have grabbed that. If you have problem with that, lobby the Oregon State Legislature. Perhaps the law should be that you don’t have to notify while in a public place.

    • Mr Grifter

      Actually, Oregon is a “one party consent” state. As long as either the student OR the professor knew it was being recorded, it is legal.

      Thanks for playing!

      • bzflagkilljoy

        Actually oregon is in between the two ( – electronic conversation is one party, while in-person conversation is two party. There doesn’t seem to be the standard expectation of privacy exception, so recording in public in most cases does appear to require consent. However, the law does have an explicit exception allowing recording at political speeches and rallies. So it is clearly legal here.

        • Michael Ross

          “…the law does have an explicit exception allowing recording at political speeches and rallies…”

          Or pretty much anywhere else; it’s called the first amendment!

    • Difdi

      Wrong. While it’s true that intercepting communications is a crime in Oregon, you need to keep reading past the first subsection, because you missed the relevant parts:

      ORS 165.540 (6)(a) exempts people openly recording at political rallies or protests from the communications interception statute. ORS 165.543 (1) exempts anyone who is a participant in the recorded conversation from the communications interception statute.

      Since the recording was done with a cellphone camera in plain view at a political protest, to record a conversation the photographer was participating in, the communications interception law does not apply.

      On the other hand, there is ORS 165.045 which covers the theft of the phone by the professor, which is normally a class A misdemeanor but because he took it by force from her hands, makes it a breach of the peace and therefore something that a citizen’s arrest can be made for in Oregon.

      Put simply, the highly experienced law professor broke the law, and could spend the next year in state prison if convicted of the act caught on the camera as per ORS 161.615 (1).

    • UOalumna

      Enlighten me, please, on what ORS you are referring to. Because the only crimes that I can find are related to bootlegging videos (ORS 164.875) and taping someone w/o consent while they are nude (163.700). Neither of which are appropriate. Maybe these would be more appropriate? ORS 164.015 Theft; 163.190 Menacing; 166.025 Disorderly Conduct (2d degree). Just a thought…

    • steveo

      Forget about OR law. Just because George Wallace said black students couldn’t go his schools didn’t make that lawful or just. We’ve settled this stuff, nationally. IL was the last domino to fall. It’s legal and lawful to record in public everywhere. OR legislature could pass a law saying no one can record anything anywhere and it wouldn’t be lawful.

      This is the wrong blog to spout off about eavesdropping/wiretapping laws unless you have your stare decisis ducks in a row.

  • rick

    Students working for UO news service are going to learn first hand about censorship when they try to report this story.

    • Clint Abernathy

      Fortunately, that’s a non-issue. The Oregon Daily Emerald is independent from the University of Oregon and fiercely protects this independence. When I was on staff, we actually went on strike at the prospect of our new publisher-to-be also moonlighting as an adjunct professor at the School of Journalism and Communication.

      • Keith Appleby

        Um. No. The Daily Emerald is quasi-independent. The Publisher is hired by a board of directors who are largely UO staff members (Tim Gleason, Meldoy Leslie, etc.) The Daily Emerald is akin to a client-state of the USA, like Afghanistan, where they are “independent”, and there is a long leash. But, there is still a leash.

  • Jon Quimbly

    Read comments by some of the students involved — UO’s student paper website, the Daily Emerald, also has the videos, plus comments…

  • Chris Kahrhoff

    Is open carry legal in Oregon? I only ask because when you have an AR15 slung if front of you and a camera in your hand this doesn’t happen.

    • Yogi

      Of course, unless he has one too. Oppppsie.

      • Difdi

        If he had one too it would elevate his class A misdemeanor theft (1 year in prison) to a class A felony robbery (20 years in prison). Oops.

  • Slam Willow

    He went about it wrong, and I see that it was lost on most of us what he was doing. If you watched and listened to the Second Video you can see that he was trying to educate them that peaceful protest will never get anything done in the long term. That was his argument. I am not saying I agree, but look at the context and listen to his words. I don’t care for the guy, but it pleases me when people look at things fully and critically.

    • dollym100

      Well he did go in that direction a couple of times. He said something about playing the protagonist which made me think that if he really believed that, he was doing a shitty job of it. He seemed unsure as what tack to take in acting out his aggression and I think he will probably be diagnosed as having some sort of mental breakdown.

  • UO Law Pacifist

    As a student of the law school, I’m deeply saddened and disappointed by this professor’s reaction. Educators should encourage students to engage their passions by participating in groups and clubs. I want to extend an apology, I don’t know any faculty or student at the law school who would defend Olmsted’s actions.

    • Elliott Whitlow

      I would not be surprised if we found some who would, they would somehow make him the victim and because he wa a prof he should be respected..
      Not that I agree with that at all..

  • Difdi

    Oregon has citizen’s arrest, and what the guy committed was felony robbery. Had he done it to me, I’d have had him under citizen’s arrest before the phone reached his pocket.

    • ExCop-Lawyer

      How is this felony robbery? I know it’s not, but I’m interested in your reasoning this time. There was no deadly weapon that I’m aware of, and he did not make any threats against the victim. He did not assault her or cause injury. All he did is snatch the camera out of her hand. In other words, theft u/ $1000, but not robbery, which is what he was charged with, along with physical harassment by offensive contact.

      • Difdi

        It’s not actually. I posted that with a flawed recollection of the law. I’ve since looked it up, and it’s a class A misdemeanor, not a felony. But it is still a breach of the peace, which would allow for a citizen’s arrest in Oregon.

        • ExCop-Lawyer

          OK, thanks.

      • Guy_Dudebro

        He used force in order to steal. He grabbed for someone’s property, there was a struggle. He came away with the property.

        A person commits the crime of robbery in the third degree if in the course of committing or attempting to commit theft […] the person uses or threatens the immediate use of physical force upon another person with the intent of:

        (a) Preventing or overcoming resistance to the taking of the property or to retention thereof immediately after the taking […]

        • ExCop-Lawyer

          What was on the video did not show the necessary use of physical force UPON the other person. He did not prevent or overcome any resistance, he merely snatched it out of her hand. He also did not use force to retain the property. In other words, theft, not robbery.

          If your view was the view of the law, all thefts from a person would be robbery, which it is not.

          • Difdi

            Exactly. Now, if she had tried to grab it back and he had physically fought her to stop her, THEN it would rise to the level of a third degree robbery. As it is, it’s “merely” second degree theft.

    • Stanley B. Manley

      Sic’m James Bond!

  • merlin10
  • NorthoftheBorder Gold

    No one beat his ass?? wimps.

    • eddy

      My first thought. You steal my camera, you get your ass beat.

      • dollym100

        the a cop would have come along and beat them all up.

      • Danllo

        I tend to agree with you on this. However, I think the students were so in shock that a professor would act like this that they’re brains were scrambled.

    • Lester TheRockingHorseGuy

      I would tend to agree with you. But the group of protesters seemed to be very pacifist, not prone to violence. Had I been there, I most likely would have argued with them also, as I don’t agree with their politics. But, not being an attorney, I know that it is against the law to get aggressive and physical with them. This guy is a complete asshat, and has no business being a professor.

  • Tijuana Joe

    Wait a sec! What this lawyer, a zoning expert, did might be perfectly legal. Was the
    photog in a Free Speech zone?

    • Rob

      By Free Speech Zone, I’m assuming you mean within the continental borders of the USA? Then the answer is yes, the photographer was in a free speech zone.

  • Rob

    Wow… I hope he loses his bar card in Oregon, as well as his teaching position there. What a fucking prick. With my temper, I’m really glad shit like this doesn’t happen to me.

    • ExCop-Lawyer

      He’s not going to lose his bar card over that.

      • io-io

        Why not?

        • ExCop-Lawyer

          Because it’s not covered in the Ore. R. Professional Responsibility. And before you come back with the catch-all in the rules, look in the Ore. Discip. Rep. and see how many similar cases you can find. I’ll save you time – none.

          • Difdi

            A lawyer cannot be disbarred in Oregon for committing crimes?

          • Elliott Whitlow

            Perhaps not disbarred but censured would seem to be valid..

          • ExCop-Lawyer

            Or a private reprimand, if the Oregon State Bar has that.

          • ExCop-Lawyer

            Yes, but typically it would have to be either a major felony or a crime in dealing with a client.

  • Patrick Magee

    According to this article the prof has been arrested and banned from campus. It doesn’t say what charges he faces.

    • io-io

      I wonder if he will be defending himself?

      • ExCop-Lawyer

        I doubt it, his expertise isn’t criminal law, and clearly he’s not up on con-law.

        • io-io

          It was a rhetorical question – along the lines of having a fool for a client…….

  • Wedge
  • steveo

    I think this guy’s been drinking or impaired somehow or off his medication. Pretty childish. The student could sue the guy and win some pretty serious money. Plus, judges who have officers of the court as defendants in a case like this with video evidence aren’t exactly lenient.

    We discuss many times about the charge of disorderly conduct. The second vid is a fabulous example of disorderly conduct because the law guy uses “fighting words” and takes a “fighting stance”. The video wouldn’t be enough to charge him with that because in most states misdemeanors have to be witnessed by a leo. In FL, if a leo was there he might be tempted to arrest the guy for disorderly intoxication. He may not be intoxicated but the leo doesn’t have to have him tested for BAC, he certainly is disorderly. (Olmsted was arrested at 2:41 p.m. on charges of theft and physical harassment.)

    I’m kind of wondering what his past behavior is like and how many times he’s been Baker Acted. In FL, we call it the Baker Act when leos, drs, mental health professionals take you into custody for 72 hrs when they believe that you are a danger to yourself or others. Everyone is entitled to a couple of meltdowns in their life by the time they’re in their 50’s, but this one is going to be very costly for mr. law guy.

  • Douglas Hester

    Instructor phone: 541.554.3665.

    Instructor email:

    • ExCop-Lawyer

      You do realize that the school already canned him, right?

      • Ron

        He would still be able to access his email from home. As an adjunct though he would not be getting paid if he isn’t teaching.

        • ExCop-Lawyer

          So you just want to harass him AFTER he’s already been fired?

          That’s showing a lot of class.

          • Difdi

            A law professor showing how ignorant he is of the law probably deserves a heckling or two…

          • Elliott Whitlow

            Public shaming has certainly been happening. I’m betting he wishes he hadn’t picked this fight..

    • Stanley B. Manley

      And this is supposed to accomplish WHAT?

    • Michael Michaels

      You’ve opened yourself up to intimidation charges for posting his number.

    • Danllo

      Not cool dude. There are too many wacko’s on the internet for you to do something like this. Use better judgement.

  • Ron

    He seems far too impressed with himself

    • Difdi

      Quite a few school teachers (at all levels of schools) are.

  • Timothy Goodness

    you’re a pussy professor… the only problem here is you are being a tuff pussy with weak pussies… try that shit with me some time, pussy.

    I don’t really know just what either sides position is here, but I know you’re a pussy, and your actions make me wish it was me you pushed.

  • Frank

    why hasn’t someone kick the shit of this POS?

    • Stanley B. Manley

      Because only a small per cent of the population is a violent as you appear to be.

    • shazbot.almighty

      What?! And make a victim out of that douchebag? Asshats like him dig their own graves.

    • n4zhg

      Because everyone’s a victim.

  • Stanley B. Manley

    Geeze, let’s be sure and give some credit to the maturity of those students! That they didn’t bounce his head of the concrete tells me they operate at a very sophisticated level.

  • habu

    This law professor is a jerk. But this incident shows how neutered the liberals, and our society, have become. The tall guy gestures to the woman to keep her distance from the belligerent professor yet does nothing to the person causing the problem. When the professor snatches her phone these people, but especially the big oaf, are powerless to act. Not one has the cojones to wrestle this professor down and reclaim the stolen property.

    On one point the professor is spot on when he challenges the bigger emasculated guy, asking, are you going to stand there or do something. Liberals are pathetic. One thing is clear: liberals can talk but have no backbone whatsoever. No wonder we are in a funk in this nation.

    • Carlos_Miller

      I’m a liberal and I would have had that professor in a headlock while grabbing my phone back within seconds.

  • Michael Michaels

    Well, the university has to decide whether it allows faculty members like this to teach at our university or whether they actually support diversity.

  • Michael Michaels

    Adjunct professors don’t have tenure, so this is an easy decision.

  • RestrainedRealpolitik

    The video shows agressive, inappropriate and provocative behavior by this adjunct professor. Really, he should be embarassed by his bad judgment and behavior.

  • Fred
  • Lightoening

    Professor Olmsted was just channeling Nick Diaz.

  • Danllo

    What the hell was this guy thinking? He had a nice cushy teaching job. Go write a paper or something and leave the students alone. Geez.

  • TakeNoShit

    This asshole thinks of himself as the protagonist…what an idiot.

    Tall guy should have slammed him when got pushed.