- Growing Number of Prosecutions for Videotaping the Police
- Reality Gap: U.S. Struggles, D.C. Booms
- The Genesis of the Shire Society
- Video: Cops Beat Man After He Finds His Son Dead
Posted: 24 Jul 2010 04:51 PM PDT
From ABC News
That Anthony Graber broke the law in early March is indisputable. He raced his Honda motorcycle down Interstate 95 in Maryland at 80 mph, popping a wheelie, roaring past cars and swerving across traffic lanes.
But it wasn’t his daredevil stunt that has the 25-year-old staff sergeant for the Maryland Air National Guard facing the possibility of 16 years in prison. For that, he was issued a speeding ticket. It was the video that Graber posted on YouTube one week later — taken with his helmet camera — of a plainclothes state trooper cutting him off and drawing a gun during the traffic stop near Baltimore.
In early April, state police officers raided Graber’s parents’ home in Abingdon, Md. They confiscated his camera, computers and external hard drives. Graber was indicted for allegedly violating state wiretap laws by recording the trooper without his consent.
Arrests such as Graber’s are becoming more common along with the proliferation of portable video cameras and cell-phone recorders. Videos of alleged police misconduct have become hot items on the Internet. YouTube still features Graber’s encounter along with numerous other witness videos. “The message is clearly, ‘Don’t criticize the police,’” said David Rocah, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland who is part of Graber’s defense team. “With these charges, anyone who would even think to record the police is now justifiably in fear that they will also be criminally charged.”
Carlos Miller, a Miami journalist who runs the blog “Photography Is Not a Crime,” said he has documented about 10 arrests since he started keeping track in 2007. Miller himself has been arrested twice for photographing the police. He won one case on appeal, he said, while the other was thrown out after the officer twice failed to appear in court.
“They’re just regular citizens with a cell-phone camera who happen to come upon a situation,” Miller said. “If cops are doing their jobs, they shouldn’t worry.”
The ACLU of Florida filed a First Amendment lawsuit last month on behalf of a model who was arrested February 2009 in Boynton Beach. Fla. Her crime: videotaping an encounter between police officers and her teenage son at a movie theater. Prosecutors refused to file charges against Sharron Tasha Ford and her son.
Videotaping as a Tool for Citizens
“The police have cameras in their cars. I watch cops on TV,” Ford said. “I’m very hurt by what happened. A lot of people are being abused by police in the same way.”
Ford’s lawyer, James Green, called videotaping “probably the most effective way to protect citizens against police officers who exaggerate or lie.”
“Judges and juries want to believe law enforcement,” he said. “They want to believe police officers and unless you have credible evidence to contradict police officers, it’s often very difficult to get judges or juries to believe the word of a citizen over a police officer.”
In Palm Beach County, Fla., Greenacres resident Peter Ballance, 63, who has Asperger’s syndrome and has to record conversations to help his memory, settled a civil lawsuit for $100,000 last year. In August 2005, police officers tackled and arrested Ballance for refusing to turn off his tape recorder.
“You know what,” said the officer, according to court documents, “I still don’t want that recording device on.”
“Well, it’s on,” Ballance replied.
“It is a third-degree felony,” the cop said. “If you want to push it, you can go to jail for it.”
“Well, I’m pushing it now,” Ballance said.
Ballance snapped pictures of the officers. One of the cops delivered a blindside tackle. Ballance had to be treated for injuries and cardiac symptoms at a hospital on the way to the county jail. At the hospital, officers refused to let Ballance use his recorders to communicate with doctors, court papers said.
In Portsmouth, N.H., earlier this month, Adam Whitman, 20, and his brother were charged with wiretapping, a felony in the state for videotaping police on the Fourth of July when they were called to a party and ended up arresting 20 people, many for underage drinking.
A police spokesman told ABCNews.com that the wiretapping charges were being dropped.
Witness Videos on the Rise
Across the country, arrests such as these highlight the growing role of witness video in law enforcement. A dozen states require all parties to consent before a recording is made if there is a “reasonable expectation of privacy.” Virginia and New York require one-party consent. Only in Massachusetts and Illinois is it illegal for people to make an audio recording of people without their consent.
“The argument is, ‘Well, can a police officer beside the highway have a private conversation with somebody that they pull over?’” said Joseph Cassilly, the Harford County prosecutor handling Graber’s case.
Cassilly added, “Suppose a police officer pulled you over and he wanted to have a talk with you. ‘Sir, I smell alcohol on your breath. Can you talk to me about how much you’ve had to drink? Would you want somebody else to stop by and record that and put it on the Internet?”
Rocah of the ACLU disagreed. “It’s not that recording any conversation is illegal without consent. It’s that recording a private conversation is illegal without consent,” he said. “So then the question is, ‘Are the words of a police officer spoken on duty, in uniform, in public a ‘private conversation.’ And every court that has ever considered that question has said that they are not.”
Rocah said actual wiretapping prosecutions, though rare, are happening more frequently. But intimidation with the threat of arrest for taping the police is much more common.
“Prosecution is only the most extreme end of a continuum of police and official intimidation and there’s a lot of intimidation that goes on and has been going on short of prosecution,” he said. “It’s far more frequent for an officer to just say, ‘You can’t record or give me your camera or give me your cell phone and if you don’t I’m going to arrest you. Very few people want to test the veracity of that threat and so comply. It’s much more difficult to document, much more prevalent and equally improper.”
New Video, Old Debate
In many jurisdictions, the police themselves record encounters with the public with dashboard cameras in their cars.
“Police and governmental recording of citizens is becoming more pervasive and to say that government can record you but you can’t record, it speaks volumes about the mentality of people in government,” Rocah said. “It’s supposed to be the other way around: They work for us; we don’t work for them.”
Graber’s YouTube video, meanwhile, has helped renew the old debate about whether government has a right to keep residents from recording the police. There is even an “I support Anthony Graber and his right to freedom of expression” Facebook page with close to 600 friends.
“Suffice it to say that our client is terrified at the prospect of these criminal charges,” Rocah said.
Posted: 24 Jul 2010 11:44 AM PDT
America is struggling with a sputtering economy and high unemployment — but times are booming for Washington’s governing class.
The massive expansion of government under President Barack Obama has basically guaranteed a robust job market for policy professionals, regulators and contractors for years to come. The housing market, boosted by the large number of high-income earners in the area, many working in politics and government, is easily outpacing the markets in most of the country. And there are few signs of economic distress in hotels, restaurants or stores in the D.C. metro area.
As a result, there is a yawning gap between the American people and D.C.’s powerful when it comes to their economic reality — and their economic perceptions.
A new POLITICO poll, conducted by market research and consulting firm Penn Schoen Berland, underscores the big divide: Roughly 45 percent of “Washington elites” said the country and the economy are headed in the right direction, while roughly 25 percent of the general population said they felt that way.
The online poll, the first in a six-month Power and the People series, surveyed 1,011 people nationally to compare their views with the views of 227 people who live in the D.C. metro area, earn way more than the national average and are involved in some form in policy or politics.
The sample of Washington elites was aware of its propitious situation: Seventy-four percent of those surveyed said the economic downturn has hurt them less than most Americans. They should be self-aware, given the economic indicators for people who live and work in the area.
Since the most recent recession began in December 2007, metropolitan Washington has shed about 71,000 employees on nonfarm payrolls, the fewest number among the nation’s 15 largest metropolitan areas.
In May, unemployment in metro Washington hit 6 percent — an uptick from April’s rate for the area but well below the national average of 9.5 percent and far milder than the May rates of the shattered manufacturing towns of the Midwest, including Flint, Mich. (at 14.7 percent), Elkhart, Ind. (at 13.7 percent) and Rockford, Ill. (at 13.9 percent).
“The unemployment rate in Flint today is as high as it was when my grandfather graduated from Flint Central High School in 1935,” Flint Mayor Dayne Walling told POLITICO. Walling pleaded for something few in Washington are willing to do in this political climate: jack up government spending right now.
“I understand that the federal government has a large, long-standing structural problem with its spending, and that needs to be addressed,” he said. “But the middle of an economic crisis is not the time for that conversation.”
As Democrats were celebrating passage of the financial regulatory bill this week — legislation that will create many new government jobs for regulators and implementers — Wisconsin was among many states reporting new signs of economic distress. The state lost jobs in June in both the private sector (for the third time in the past four months) and government (despite the stimulus plan).
Washington has been largely shielded from the economic downturn, even in 2009, when most states and cities were hit the hardest.
During 2009, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported more than 11,000 initial claimants for unemployment insurance associated with extended mass layoff events in the Flint metropolitan area and less than half that number for the D.C. metro area — a region that includes the District itself and the wealthy, highly educated counties of Northern Virginia and southwest Maryland. It’s a sobering reminder of the District’s distance from the epicenters of the Great Recession.
In part, that’s because the federal government drives about a third of the national capital region’s economy by direct employment — Uncle Sam employs about 10 percent of the area’s 3 million-person work force — or by federal procurement dollars, more than $20 billion of which landed in nearby Fairfax County, Va., alone last year.
“This is our auto industry, or financial services, or entertainment,” said Stephen Fuller, director of George Mason University’s Center for Regional Analysis, alluding, respectively, to the economic foundations of the Detroit, New York and Los Angeles metropolitan areas. “The federal government is our business. And on top of that, we have an administration that’s clearly expanding the role of the federal government in the context of the national economy — as a manager and as a provider of funds. That hasn’t been the case in the past, except in the case of wars.”
The economic crisis has been a job creator for those outside government, too. Many New York firms have opened new offices and created new jobs in D.C. to deal with the growing web of regulations. Northrop Grumman — one of many contractors profiting from government growth — is moving its operations from Southern California to Northern Virginia. Several other firms have moved here of late, too.
Even media companies, which have been hammered by the economy and bad industrywide trends, are hiring in town. Competition among Bloomberg, POLITICO and other outlets has resulted in bidding wars for reporters with sophisticated understanding of government policy.
And more money is on the way, in the form of well-paid agency jobs associated with reforms of the nation’s health insurance sector and financial markets: Both bills call for substantial new federal oversight by agencies such as the Health and Human Services Department and the Internal Revenue Service. And the professionals who take those jobs will need homes, buy furniture and pay taxes, said David Robertson, executive director of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, “and that’s going to have a multiplier effect in our region.”
The Center for Regional Analysis projects the federal government will add 6,500 new jobs in the area each year through 2012.
All of this could have big political consequences. It doesn’t take polls and studies to know that much of America thinks very little of the Washington governing class.
Indeed, one of the defining characteristics of this election cycle has been the rise of anti-establishment political power in key races — fueled by a belief that this city just doesn’t get it. The old perks of power, such as chairmanships and pork, are often liabilities as voters turn to tea party candidates and newcomers opposed by the establishments of both parties.
The disconnect between D.C. elites and the general public is stoking the growth of more direct popular movements like MoveOn and [the] tea party,” said Mark Penn, who helped conduct the poll. “The D.C. elites are largely isolated from the economic downturn, and this means that they can easily fail to understand the depth of dissatisfaction out in the country.”
Posted: 24 Jul 2010 08:04 AM PDT
From The Examiner
The Shire Society Declaration – Hand penned by author
On June 26th 2010 the seeds of a voluntary society were sown in Lancaster New Hampshire. Participants in the annual Porcupine Freedom Festival held a signing ceremony to inaugurate their founding document, The Shire Society Declaration, which some have called a new declaration of independence.
PorcFest is the annual summer festival of the Free State Project, which is a movement of like-minded liberty loving individuals moving to New Hampshire to consolidate their efforts toward establishing a free society. To date over 10,000 have pledged to move (myself included) and an estimated 800 have already moved. Many have taken the political route, running for elected offices, and organizing in political advocacy groups, but the greater victories have been achieved by those who have adopted the strategy of civil disobedience and non cooperation. These early movers and New Hampshire natives are proving to be the true gladiators of liberty activism in America today.
The outside the system activism is focused in Keene New Hampshire, which has been dubbed the liberty media capital of the world. The Genesis of the Shire Society occurred November 19, 2009 on the local message board FreeKeene.com where Ian Freeman, host of the nationally syndicated radio show Free Talk Live posted:
At the signing ceremony Freeman added:
The Shire Society is a voluntary association of sovereign individuals committed to the ideals peace and liberty. The Shire Society Declaration is intended to announce their non violent withdrawal of consent from the coercive state society.
On the forum there is also discussion of establishing private ID cards, passports and vehicle plates. There are also templates for an official “Notice of Non-Consent” and what they call a “Peace Ticket” which is given in response to traffic citations. The ticket reads:
The ticket goes on to give the officer and the court the opportunity to drop the complaint and informs them that if they don’t the activist will not cooperate with the legal process, which may cost the agency additional funds forcing a non cooperative through their system and/or holding them in a jail cell. It also informs them that the proceedings will be publicized through all the liberty media channels, resulting in more people moving and joining the Shire Society.
I had the honor of hand writing the Shire Society Declaration, which was done with a classic dip pen on large hemp paper. As the artist I had the unique privilege of being the first to place my name on this historic document amongst the now hundreds of liberty luminaries who have signed.
Sam Dodson, one of the initial signers, has shown himself to be one of the true champions of liberty activism in New Hampshire. He is the host of the Obscured Truth Network, a media company which produces documentaries of real life interaction with law enforcement and bureaucracy exposing their violence, hypocrisy and ignorance of their own system. At the signing ceremony Sam described the Shire Society Declaration:
He goes on:
Information about the Shire Society can be found at www.ShireSociety.com which leads to a subforum of FreeKeene.com about the Shire Society. Soon that address will lead to a homepage dedicated exclusively to the Shire Society where the Declaration, complete with signatures can be viewed, and web signatures can be added. So you may, if your heart bears witness to the Truth of it, shake the shackles of the world and sign.
Posted: 23 Jul 2010 07:51 PM PDT
LOGANVILLE, Ga. – A man says he called Loganville police to his home for help and ended up being beaten by officers. Kenny Dixon said Friday that he arrived home Wednesday to find that his son had committed suicide.
Crews responded to the emergency, but Dixon said police made one of his family’s darkest days even worse by attacking, then arresting him.
Dixon had black eyes and scrapes on his face Friday, injuries he said he received in addition to his broken heart.
The Loganville man said found his stepson Wednesday, dead inside his garage. The 24-year-old had committed suicide.
“I tried to do CPR on him and couldn’t bring him back. I yelled for people in the neighborhood to call 911,” said Dixon.
When police and emergency crews arrived, Dixon said paramedics took over the rescue effort.
“I left the garage, walked to the front door. One of the police officers came up behind me, grabbed my arm, and said, ‘You need to sit down.’ I jerked my arm away from him and said, ‘Don’t touch me.’ That’s all I said to the man, and he tackled me,” Dixon said.
Dixon said other officers then joined in and two allegedly held him down, while two others punched him in the face.
“I couldn’t figure out what the heck was going on over there,” said neighbor, Lisa Neighbors.
Neighbors said she woke up to screaming and looked outside.
“They were just waling on him, punching him and punching him. It was awful,” Neighbors said.
“I never once resisted them, I didn’t swing at them, I didn’t cuss them, I didn’t do anything to deserve what they did to me!” exclaimed Dixon.
Dixon said officers put him in a police car and took him to jail. The Loganville man was charged with felony obstruction.
Loganville police leaders called the incident a “regrettable situation.” The chief of police said he called in the GBI to investigate and that his agency had nothing to hide.
Dixon filed a complaint and he and his neighbors said they were disgusted and want some answers.
“How could Loganville do that? How could they beat up on somebody that just came home and found their son hung?” said Neighbors.
Loganville police leaders said the four officers involved were still working. It’s not clear how long the GBI investigation will take.