Toledo Blade Sues Government Over Unlawful Detainment, Camera Confiscation and Photo Deletion


In a move rarely seen from the mainstream media, the Toledo Blade newspaper is suing the United States Government over last week’s incident in which armed military personnel detained two of its reporters, including a photojournalist, whose camera they confiscated and images they deleted.

All because they apparently didn’t want anybody to see where our tanks are being made.

Or more likely, the money we’re spending on the tanks we don’t need made.

Considering the amount of money that is being spent on the Joints Systems Manufacturing Center (aka Lima Army Tank Plant) and the unprofessional behavior of the armed thugs guarding it, the best thing to do would be to shut the whole plant down, sending a message to every government official in this country that we will not be treated like enemy combatants.

So good for the Toledo Blade, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winning newspaper, for filing its lawsuit Friday, an action most newspapers refrain from doing in an attempt to keep relations civil with the institutions they cover.

The lawsuit states that Blade reporter Tyler Linkhorn and photojournalist Jetta Fraser stopped in front of the plant on a public street to take some file photos for future stories the paper was planning on running when they were detained by three military police officers named Steltzer, Workman and Snyder, whose first names they were unable to obtain prior to filing the suit.

Fraser, who was sitting in the passenger’s seat, was ordered to hand over her drivers license. She showed them her press credentials, arguing that she was under no obligation to hand over her drivers license if she wasn’t driving.

She was ordered out of the car, handcuffed and patted down, remaining handcuffed for an hour while they questioned her sexuality, threatening to fondle her breasts to prove she was female, proving once again why it’s so important to record every encounter with authority figures.

According to the lawsuit:

On March 28, 2014, in a vehicle owned by The Blade and driven by Plaintiff Linkhorn with Plaintiff Fraser as a passenger, Plaintiffs Linkhorn and Fraser drove on to the public portion of the entry roadway between the guard hut and Buckeye Road. At the time, the guard hut was unoccupied, and there were no security or law-enforcement personnel otherwise visible. Plaintiff Fraser exited the vehicle for the purpose of taking file or library photos of the publicly visible portions of the Center so that the images would be readily available for later use by The Blade as needed to illustrate newspaper stories related to the Center.

Plaintiff Fraser then took several photographs from the public portion of the roadway. In each instance, the subject of the photograph was a part of the Center that was plainly visible to the public from the public streets or the public part of the Center’s entry.

Having taken the photographs, using photographic equipment owned by The Blade, Plaintiffs Fraser then returned to the vehicle, and Plaintiffs Fraser and Linkhorn began to leave. They were intercepted, however, by Defendants Stelzer, Workman, and Snyder.

These Defendants, who were armed and in military-police uniforms, then questioned Plaintiffs Fraser and Linkhorn regarding their identity, their employment, and their purposes for taking photographs. Both Plaintiffs Fraser and Linkhorn promptly identified themselves, explained that they were taking photographs for use by The Blade, and produced Defendants’ inspection documents that bore their names and photographs, and that documented their employment with The Blade.

Plaintiff Fraser had identified herself by using an employee identification card supplied by The Blade bearing her name and her photograph.. When Defendants Stelzer, Workman, and Snyder, demanded that Plaintiff Fraser produce a driver’s license, she inquired why such an identification was required since she was not driving the vehicle. Defendants Stelzer, Workman, and Snyder immediately responded by ordering her to exit the vehicle, and they then placed her in handcuffs. Defendants Stelzer, Workman, and Snyder then conducted an extensive pat-down search of her person. She was required to remain with her hands cuffed behind her back for the duration of the incident, a time totaling approximately an hour.

During this encounter, Defendants Stelzer, Workman, and Snyder repeatedly addressed and referred to Plaintiff Fraser in terms denoting the masculine gender. Plaintiff Fraser objected and requested that defendants employ an appropriate mode of address. Then, after Defendant Snyder had placed Plaintiff Fraser in handcuffs, he threatened a physical assault, saying “You say you are a female, I’m going to go under your bra.”

Plaintiffs Fraser and Linkhorn were held in custody by Defendants for up to hour and a half, during much of which time Plaintiff Fraser was handcuffed.

At the beginning of the encounter, Defendants Stelzer, Workman, and Snyder seized the cameras, memory cards, and other equipment, including a pocket-sized personal calendar and notebook, that were in the possession of Plaintiffs Fraser and Linkhorn and that were and are the property of The Blade. At no time did either Plaintiff Fraser or Plaintiff Linkhorn consent to this seizure.

Defendants Stelzer, Workman, and Snyder eventually released Plaintiffs Fraser and Linkhorn without making any charges that Plaintiffs had engaged in any unlawful activity.

Upon releasing the Plaintiffs, however, Defendants Stelzer, Workman, and Snyder retained possession of the cameras, memory cards, and other equipment that they had seized, doing so without the consent and despite the objections of Plaintiffs Fraser and Linkhorn.

Late that evening, several hours after the encounter, and only after the intervention of United States Senator Rob Portmann, Defendants permitted representatives of The Blade to recover possession of the cameras, memory cards, and other equipment that had been seized by Defendants. An inspection of these items disclosed that all of the photographs taken by Plaintiff Fraser at the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center, as well as photographs taken earlier at other locations, including all photographs of the Husky Refinery Plant, had been destroyed while the cameras and memory cards were in the possession and control of the Defendants. Plaintiffs are informed and believe, and therefore allege, that this destruction was undertaken by Defendant Michelle [Last Name Unknown], who was acting under the direction and with the assent of Defendant Hodge.

Two years ago, there were talks of shutting the plant down because the United States did not need anymore tanks. But  Portmann, the senator who was able to get the Blade back its camera gear last week, managed to secure $255 million for the plant to build more tanks through 2014, according to NPR.

But despite all that money, they were unable to train their military police to respect the rights of citizens to photograph the plant from a public street, even though those same images can be found through Google Earth, not to mention the plant can be seen by simply driving by it on a public street.

So let’s shut the plant down. We don’t need anymore tanks anyway. And we surely don’t need anymore domestic militarization.

What we do need is for this madness to stop.

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.

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  • kyle

    I have read the article, and am upset. But, I’m worried. I’m worried the two reporters — clearly not beyond the guard shack, were off of Buckeye Road, and on the property of Joint Systems Manufacturing Center… and because of this I wonder if they accept what occurs when on private property.
    That said, it’s amazing the guards took this action, as it is not only irregular, but damn near theft. The mere idea of doing this lacks professionalism and respect for the public.
    Something tells me, however, that they may have been on the property, ever so slightly.

    • Carlos_Miller

      They did not enter a restricted area, so the thugs had no right to detain them.

      • kyle

        Google earth has the worst street photo of the entrance… totally blocked by a damn truck. I can’t see any signs, so I can’t argue the point.
        I agree, however. Just because someone snaps a photo doesn’t mean the MPs have to become stupid. There is zero reason for them to do this, but my military experience reminds me some folks in the military don’t like having their authority questioned… by anyone. Now we must show them…

        • kyle

          But let me add the Jack Booted Thugs have no cause or ability to seize cameras. If anything, it was theft!

    • DON MAY

      the cops does that to people all the time

    • discarted

      Even if the reporters were on “private” government property (what an oxymoron) government agents can’t steal your equipment and destroy your private property.

      • Guest

        Or threaten to sexually assault you.

        “You say you are a female, I’m going to go under your bra.”

        • Difdi

          The proper response in that situation is to use your knee to go under his balls to see if he’s really a man or not. He sure doesn’t act much like one.

          • Fotaugrafee

            Agreed, one assault for another. 😀 Sounds like self-defense to me.

    • Fotaugrafee

      You’ve never heard of a public easement along a PUBLIC roadway? In many instances, private property does not begin or is not conveyed on the shoulder of the road. The right-of-way is often several feet beyond the shoulder or edge of the road.

  • DocRambo

    Why no charges against these animals? The thugs violated state and local laws! Arrest their sorry asses!

  • Film The Police Always

    I hope to hear that these thugs are killed in a freak accident, like an out of control tank runs over them and crushes them. I’m embarrassed that these assholes swore to protect the constitution and then violated these reporters rights. Shut that plant down NOW. I’m all for keeping the plant open as long as those 3 assholes are put to death.

  • Tijuana Joe

    Military Police? Civilians….First Amendment…

    maybe I’m naive but isn’t this Posse Comitatus territory?
    BTW Anyone else notice the similarity of tank building to cock waving?

    • ExCop-Lawyer

      No, it is not posse comitatus territory.

  • Liberaltarian

    Hahaha, these idiots picked on the wrong people and now they’re gonna pay for it! you don’t go harassing people who are friends with your state’s US Senator. I’m glad they’re going to get bitch slapped by the courts and by their employer, but realize that if this were Joe Schmoe taking photos, they’d probably get away with it. Regardless, at least it might make the next asshole think twice because you never know when you just might pick on the wrong person.

  • Scott Peterson

    If they were truly MP’s they would have no authority over civilians who are not on a military reservation. It’s much more likely these guys were private security people. If so, they’ve opened themselves to charges ranging from theft to kidnapping.

    • ExCop-Lawyer

      That’s an incorrect statement. MPs do have the authority to detain civilians at a GOCO facility. I doubt that they were MPs, but more likely DOD Police.

      • Scott Peterson

        In either case, my understanding is that their police power would derive from being on a military reservation (including GOCO facilities) under UCMJ. Attempting to exercise authority off base would be limited to holding someone while they contacted civilian authorities.

        • ExCop-Lawyer

          They can also follow off-base under the hot pursuit doctrine, if the reason for the contact occurred on-base.

          • Scott Peterson

            In this case, that’s moot as they were photographing from the street. So it sounds as if these guys had no authority at all for what they did.

          • ExCop-Lawyer

            Except that the lawsuit states that the reporters entered the base.

            Base property begins at least at the fenceline, which is well before the empty guard shack and even more so from the newer vehicle inspection / security entrance shown on Google Earth.

            If that is the case, than 18 U.S.C.A. § 795 could give them the legal authority to detain and delete the photographs involved. And with the SCOTUS decision in United States v. Apel, ___ U.S. ___, 134 S. Ct. 1144, 188 L. Ed. 2d 75 (2014), I doubt that the Blade can claim that they were on “public” property. That is the exact same argument that failed in Apel.

            I don’t agree with the actions of the DOD police, but I doubt very seriously that the paper will prevail.

  • Free America

    I didn’t know Carlos Miller was a military armament expert. Please Carlos, tell us about your qualifications on tank warfare and more specifically how you concluded the American military doesn’t need these tanks.
    Maybe you should try to be a little more objective and a little more on topic when discussing and reporting on constitutional rights issues for photographers.
    We don’t need to hear your constant liberal slant about issues irrelevant to photographers rights.

    • Rick Hiltz

      Free america thats a good joke

    • Kaemaril

      If you don’t want to hear somebody’s ‘constant liberal slant’ then why not simply not read their website? Seems a simple enough solution.

    • Joe blow

      Because only “liberals” oppose needless military bloat, right?

      Pull your head out of the bullshit left/right paradigm, once you’ve finished pulling it out of your ass.

    • Carlos_Miller

      Stop reading the fucking blog if you don’t like it.

      • Free America

        You have a very important and valuable site dedicated to First Amendment rights. However, you needlessly inject your own personal opinions that are irrelevant to the stories you are covering.
        Your political opinions, from what I have read, are almost entirely liberal.
        America has enough liberal media, we don’t need Carlos Millers worthless opinion on military armament in an article about an important issue.
        Is there some way you can work abortion or Obamacare into this article and all of your future articles ? Maybe global warming ?
        I suggest you stick to keeping your articles on topic and resist the unholy liberal urge to constantly proselytize.

        • Fotaugrafee

          Oh wonderful, another Tea-billy asswipe.

        • Jerri Lynn Ward

          When you visit people’s homes, do you tell them how to arrange their furniture? Because that’s what you are doing here. You are coming onto a private blog and trying dictate to Carlos what “slant” he puts on his stories. I suggest that you stick your suggestions where the sun don’t shine.

          Moreover, I’m a conservative Republican and I can certainly read Carlos’s posts and filter out and put into perspective any of his positions with which I disagree—so why don’t you just “man” up and focus on the main issues? I am sick to death of some my fellow conservatives going all whiny about the liberal msm and “libtards” and generally showing what wimps they are about people who don’t share their opinions. You can’t beat something with nothing.

    • Joseph Murray

      Clearly you don’t know anything about ANYTHING, yet strangely still want to voice your opinion; how does that work? Took me about 5 seconds to discover that the American Military says the American military doesn’t need these tanks.

      I guess ignorance is a conservative value…

    • jcfromnj

      Yo Free, I was in a Field Artillery Unit on Active Duty for he Army in the late 80’s. That type of Tank Warfare was on’s way out back them, and the DOD has eliminated quite a few Tank Commands since then. It all about Drones and Special Ops Unit’s now. And besides, if they didn’t want us to see those tanks right out there in the open, they should cover them with a big blanket……

      • ExCop-Lawyer

        LMAO. Yeah, that’s why production of the M1A1 didn’t begin until 1986, right? Last time I checked, adding 6,000 main battle tanks is hardly an indication that they were on their way out.

        Typical redleg BS.

      • Fotaugrafee

        Aww hell bro, these tanks are for the new generation of military warfare, so they can sell off the old stuff as “military surplus” to the town of population 6,000 near you!! 😀

    • kyle

      You are obviously not an expert, Troll. You haven’t read the newspapers noting we are almost out of Afghanistan, and are out of Iraq. And, you likely have no ability to list the last time this country lost a tank in battle.. likely Desert Storm back in 91…
      And, you also failed to understand and comprehend that the Pentagon doesn’t want the tanks, but that a politician earmarked military money to keep the plant open.
      It is you who is clearly not a military armament expert.

      • Free America

        America hasn’t lost a tank battle in a long time because we have the best, most advanced and expensive tanks.
        Sorry if you don’t like that FACT but the federal government spending money on the military is one of the few examples of constitutionally compliant spending.

        • max

          you are really dumb, arent you? you should listen to what people are saying – the army does not want the tanks. You are like the town retard…

    • hannahalice1000 .

      Does the actual Army’s opinion apply as an expert opinion on Army requirements?

      BTW, did you now that the Blades reporters were there specifically to provide background material on this very subject?

      30 seconds on Google before venting, priceless

    • Fotaugrafee

      ^^^ Bootlicker of the day!!! 😀

    • me

      Uh what? This is mainstream news, try 60 minutes. Apparently you are far too stupid to understand the debate regarding these tanks. The Pentagon is asking for the manufacturing of the tanks to STOP. If you gave a shit about this country you would know the pentagon sees these unneeded tanks as a danger because its eating up budget they dont have to waste on useless shit we dont need. But no you are just a dumbass who is still stuck in “liberal vs conservative” mind control bullshit. You are pathetic. Go educate yourself meathead.

  • dravo1

    Here’s the LinkedIn URL for the base commander:

    A West Point man. He should know better………

    • Zadok

      I hope he fired the lieutenant who was in charge of the thuggery outside the gate.

  • Karen C

    Tim to get out your cameras and phones and go and photograph the building. Lets see how they react if hundreds of people show up there.

  • ExCop-Lawyer

    I seriously doubt that these are military police. They may be DOD police (who are civilians, and are not members of the military), but the military has been cut down so much that most bases have to augment their military police personnel with DOD police. It is almost unheard of to have MPs at a GOCO facility.

    • Fotaugrafee

      Sooo, high-end jackboots that know NOTHING about the law. Yes, just what we need running security at all of these “homeland defense” operations — more fucking nitwit boob cocksuckers.

  • frank-kintz

    I wonder if they are funded by the State Dept.? This may be where some of the 2 Billion dollars that can’t be found went. Let’s build some more tanks that the Defense Dept., and the Military Brass don’t want or need. We can give them to the local outlaws (LEO) to use for things like serving and protecting. Oh, and shooting dogs.
    Before you start with the” your a dirty liberal crap,” I am a hard core Tea Party supporter that leans a bit right of Attila The Hun. General Patton died long ago.

  • Ian Cochran

    Actually, in-bedded in one of the National Security Acts (1962 I believe) actually does make the photography of sensitive military installations illegal.

    • Terry Wilson


      There is no way this is a sensitive military installation, I will post several youtube videos that show a lot more than this.

      I worked in a tech control facility and saw a lot of classified materials and Special access program info, so trust me in knowing what is classified and what is not.

      • ExCop-Lawyer

        Classified materials and SAP/SSI has nothing to do with photography restrictions under 18 U.S.C.A. § 795. All it takes is a commander deciding that the area(s) are sensitive and banning photography of that area(s). When I was running the infosec program at a base, we banned Furbies from the base on the theory that they “learned” what they heard. The Furby ban had nothing to do with any decision on a photography ban (which we also had in other areas).

        • Terry Wilson

          From the base come on… The main point I was making is there have been extensive documentaries made on this facility, the main tank is 30 years, the technology on everything but the armor and the gun sighting technology is easily reproduced.

          • ExCop-Lawyer

            All of which is interesting and irrelevant.

            By designating it as a sensitive facility, the military gains control and the ability to censor photographs.

    • Secret Squirrel

      So a secret law that was passed in secret by a secret committee of secret people made photography of secret military installations that are located along public roads with unguarded gates illegal? And you’re going along with that? Oh, and the word is ’embedded’ not ‘in-bedded’ which best describes your relationship with the thugs who enforce your secret laws.

    • dravo1

      Then why can Google broadcast closeups of ALL sensitive military sites to the world?

      • ExCop-Lawyer

        The U.S. Military has banned Google Streetview from military bases since 2008.

  • Alex

    Damn this lawsuit was filed in record time. Nice job.

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  • dravo1

    Here’s a nice legal review of the governments position in this case:

    The Army will have a rather weak position here.

    • ExCop-Lawyer

      Actually the Army will have a strong position. While Dr. Jonathan Peters laid out the reasons for his position well, as would be expected, he is a primarily a journalist. His legal analysis omits the fact that of the 11 cites to the statute (9 cases, 2 Cal. AG opinions), not all address the actual statute.

      As he notes, Genovese v. Town of Southhampton, 921 F. Supp. 2d 8 (E.D.N.Y. 2013) does. As a matter of fact, it is really the only one that discusses the issue in depth and it comes down squarely in support of the statute and the right to detain someone for taking pictures of a military facility.

      Also, are you sure you want to hook your wagon to Dr. Peters’s horse? His definition of journalist is “A journalist is someone employed to regularly engage in gathering, processing, and disseminating (activities) news and information (output) to serve the public interest (social role).” Jonathan Peters & Edson C. Tandoc, Jr., “People who aren’t really reporters at all, who have no professional qualifications”: Defining a Journalist and Deciding Who May Claim the Privileges, 2013 N.Y.U.J. LEGIS. & PUB. POL’Y QUORUM 34. In that article, he argues that only real reporters, those who are employed full-time as journalists for traditional media (newspapers, magazines, TV, and radio) are entitled to protection under journalistic shield laws.

      If you buy his legal argument on one, do you agree on the other? Or that WikiLeaks isn’t entitled to protection? See Jonathan Peters, WikiLeaks Would Not Qualify to Claim Federal Reporter’s Privilege in Any Form, 63 FED. COMM. L.J. 667 (May 2011).

      I don’t agree with him. I consider Carlos, Jeff, and others to be citizen journalists. Since I don’t think his reasoning is sound in that area, I have no reason to give any weight to his opinion in other areas.

      • dravo1

        My stand on the Armys position is based on three observations:

        1) Neither reporter was arrested. When the photos were deleted, supposedly by the security group, their case disappeared.

        2) How can the Army explain why they pursued 2 reporters for ‘public view’ photos when they won’t go after Google for publishing rather detailed overhead shots of ALL their military facilities? Not just the photos but full GPS coordinates as well.

        3) The regulation the Army is trying to use won’t pass constitutional muster before the supreme court, if it gets that far. It was never kept up to date.

        • ExCop-Lawyer

          OK, to respond:

          1) So? They were more interested in the photographs than in making an arrest. That doesn’t negate the probable cause that the officers had to make the stop under 18 USC 795.

          2) The Army doesn’t have to explain it. Failure to prosecute one criminal act does not mean that the government cannot prosecute someone else for the same act.

          3) I disagree. SCOTUS has upheld these types of laws on a regular basis. And Scalia is on record as saying both the TSA pat-downs and the NSA cellphone intercepts are likely constitutional. Roberts, Alito, and Thomas are sure votes to uphold, meaning you only need one additional vote.

          I noticed that you didn’t have a comment about Dr. Peter’s other views…

      • Kirkus1964

        Genovese was awarded $1.12 million in the case.