In the age of citizen journalism where any citizen can pick up a camera and hold officials accountable, there are not many who have pushed the envelope are far as Adam “Ademo Freeman” Mueller.
The co-founder of Cop Block has found himself incarcerated numerous times over the years for his insistence on recording public officials in their public capacities.
He is incarcerated right now, serving 60 days on a resisting arrest charge, which actually is a result of a clerical screw-up.
But none of those stints in jail come close to his latest legal case in which he is facing up to 21 years in prison for felony wiretapping.
His trial, which begins today in Manchester, New Hampshire, has the potential to establish case law for years to come.
An acquittal will send the message that public officials do not have an expectation of privacy when they are speaking as public officials to a citizen on a telephone call.
A guilty verdict will send the message that police can record us without our consent but we can’t record them.
That, after all, is what law enforcement officials from all levels have been vying for all along.
We’ve seen so many wiretapping cases over the years, only for them to get thrown out of court because they usually consist of a citizen recording a cop in public where police have no expectation of privacy.
In fact, Mueller was acquitted on wiretapping charges last year in an incident where he was video recording cops in public in Massachusetts.
But this case is a little different in that he recorded a public official over the phone without specifically informing them that he was recording.
It wasn’t as if he recorded anything confidential, embarrassing or even that revealing. They basically gave him little or no comment and hung up the phone.
But in this age of citizen journalism, public officials will do all they can to keep citizens in check if it helps them from being kept in check.
The case stems from an incident at a New Hampshire high school where a student video recorded a police officer beating up another student.
School officials ordered the student to delete the footage and he acted as if he did, but kept the clip showing the beating and gave it Cop Block, who turned it into a national story.
Mueller than recorded a video of himself calling the Manchester Police Department and the West High School in the same city, seeking comment about the incident from officials.
He didn’t inform them that he was recording, but he did identify himself from Cop Block and it was clear that he was seeking official comment because he didn’t beat around the bush with informalities.
The cop hung up the phone on him in a matter of seconds and it is believed police record all incoming calls into the station.
And the school official answered a few questions in a manner that it was clear she was speaking on the record before hanging up the phone.
The New Hampshire wiretapping law, which specifically states that police can record citizens without their consent, states the following:
A person is guilty of a class B felony if, except as otherwise specifically provided in this chapter or without the consent of all parties to the communication, the person:
(a) Willfully intercepts, endeavors to intercept, or procures any other person to intercept or endeavor to intercept, any telecommunication or oral communication;
To fully interpret the law, we must read the legal definitions of the terms used.
I. “Telecommunication” means the transfer of any form of information in whole or in part through the facilities of a communications common carrier. “Telecommunication” does not include any communication made through a tone-only paging system or from a tracking device.
II. “Oral communication” means any oral communication uttered by a person exhibiting in expectation that such communication is not subject to interception under circumstances justifying such expectation.
III. “Intercept” means the aural or other acquisition of, or the recording of, the contents of any telecommunication or oral communication through the use of any electronic, mechanical, or other device.
In layman’s terms, a person is guilty of wiretapping if he records a conversation with a person who is under the impression that the call is not being recorded.
It was clear from the conversation that Mueller was seeking on-the-record comments and it was clear from the responses of both police and the school official that they were well aware of that.
We’ve seen how cops act when they don’t believe they are being recorded and when they are aware they are being recorded. It’s the difference between night and day.
Furthermore, these are all tax-funded public officials who were called at their tax-funded public institutions while working for their tax-funded salaries.
It may have been a little different if Mueller had called them at home after hours.
Mueller, who is representing himself, plans to use the Glik vs Boston landmark decision as one of his arguments, even though that stemmed from a case in which a man was openly video recording cops in a public park.
But if you read through the decision, you can see where it can apply in his case.
Gathering information about government officials in a form that can readily be disseminated to others serves a cardinal First Amendment interest in protecting and promoting “the free discussion of governmental affairs.” Mills v. Alabama, 384 U.S. 214, 218 (1966).
Moreover, as the Court has noted, “[f]reedom of expression has particular significance with respect to government because ‘[i]t is here that the state has a special incentive to repress opposition and often wields a more effective power of suppression.'” First Nat’l Bank, 435 U.S. at 777 n.11 (alteration in original) (quoting Thomas Emerson, Toward a General Theory of the First Amendment (1966)). This is particularly true of law enforcement officials, who are granted substantial discretion that may be misused to deprive individuals of their liberties.
It was obvious from Mueller’s questions that he was seeking information to disseminate to the public.
And while some may argue that he conducted himself unethically by not informing them he was recording, the fact that he publicized his conversations shows that he was acting as transparent as possible. Nobody can accuse him of twisting their statements to his advantage.
Perhaps prosecutors are aware of this, which is why have already offered him several plea deals, which he has refused.
In fact, prosecutor Michael Valentine visited Mueller in jail and told him that if the jury found him guilty, he would ask the judge for a six-month sentence to be following by a two-year probationary “good behavior” period that could land Mueller in prison for up to two years if violated, the same conditions that he offered in the plea deal which shows Mueller had nothing to lose by rejecting the plea deals.
Don’t be surprised if they offer him even a better deal before the trial even starts.
Another fact that could possibly work in Mueller’s favor is the fact that New Hampshire passed a jury nullification law in June, which would allow defense attorneys to inform juries that they have the right to acquit citizens who violate laws that they find objectionable.
This would be a perfect case for jury nullification, especially in a libertarian-minded state like New Hampshire.
The only problem is that the law doesn’t go into effect until January 1, 2013.
But that didn’t stop Mueller’s supporters from standing outside the courthouse last week to hand out jury nullification pamphlets to potential jurors.
And court officials didn’t seem to have a problem with that, according to the Union Leader.
The pamphlets provided information about jury nullification, and a hung jury, which is when a jury cannot reach a unanimous verdict and the defendant is either retried, or the case is dropped.
Clerk of Court John Safford said some of the people called for jury duty had been handed the pamphlets, but nothing was made of it by court officials.
The Union Leader, which is Manchester’s main newspaper, also reported on the new law last month, which means there is a decent chance the jurors will already know about their right to acquit a defendant of a law that allows public officials to remain unaccountable.
And that’s what this case is all about. There was no invasion of privacy, which is what the wiretapping laws were created to protect.
This was simply a journalist seeking statements from public officials at a public institution on the public’s dime.
That is not only protected by recent case law. It is protected by the First Amendment.
A female officer spotted Hurlbut recordingand told him that he was not allowed to take pictures. Hurlbut took a few steps back, but continued recording as the security guards brought the arrestee to their cruiser.
After the man was placed in the cruiser, a male trolley cop approached Hurlbut, demanded to see his trolley pass, and told him to stop taking pictures. Hurlbut asked if it was against the law and the guard replied that it was. Hurtlbut asked again and the guard responded “It’s against out rights.” Hurlbut asked the guard what law made it illegal to take pictures, but the guartd refused to give him an answer. Finally, Hurlbut shut off the camera out of fear that the trolley cops might confiscate it and delete his footage.
Hurlbut said that several minutes after he shut off his camera, he was approached by another trolley cop who demanded to see his pass. Hurlbut said he produced it and the officer grabbed it out of his hands and threatened him.
On September 18, Ken Moller, president of Heritage Security Services, the company that employed the trolley cops, issued an apology to Hurlbut and confirmed that it is legal to take pictures and shoot video. “We have no right to tell people they can’t shoot down there,” he said. “My officers were wrong in telling him that. And I put that word out as soon as I saw the video. It’s a public place and people can certainly shoot video down there if they want to.
Heritage Security Services refused to release the arrest report for the smoker despite the fact that Hurlbut’s video showed the trolley cops using excessive force.
Carlos Miller, “Photographer receives apology after armed guards harass him for shooting video,” Photography is Not a Crime, February 5, 2010
Kathryn Snyder, “We Don’t Want You Taking Pictures,” San Diego Reader, February 24, 2010
12th & Imperial Transit Center, San Diego, CA 92101
On February 21, 2010, a photographer began taking pictures of a police officer conducting a traffic stop. The officer spotted him and launched into a tirade: “Me, I’m a citizen of this country. I was in the Marine Corps a few years getting shot at for you. You can move along,” he told the photographer.
When the photographer did not leave, the officer angrily called him a “fruitcake” and told him he was being detained for taking pictures. The officer looked up information about him in his computer and informed him that he had unresolved parking tickets.
The officer insisted that photographing people without their permission is illegal, however, he did not cite or arrest the photographer.
The incident was caught on video by the photographer, apparently unbeknownst to the officer.
Dennis Romero, “Caught On Tape: LAPD Officer Calls Photographer ‘Fruitcake,’ Detains Him,” LA Weekly, June 2, 2010
Two members of East Atlanta Copwatch saw police officer conducting a traffic stop and began recording. One of the officers approached them, told them that what they were doing was illegal, then accused them of blocking the sidewalk, and ordered them to leave. The officer ignored multiple requests to identify himself.
The Copwatchers continued to document the traffic stop and noticed another officer sitting in a police cruiser who pointed his phone at them and appeared to take pictures of them.
The Copwatchers continued recording and were again ordered to leave. They ignored the orders and continued to document the traffic stop.
If you are many people who just don’t trust cops anymore, then you will find this site to be one of your favorites, it is dedicated to holding the cops accountable for their actions as we should.
As well all like going to a club, bar or strip club this is a message to beware as you my find yourself faced with this type of incident.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Four District of Columbia police officers have been indicted by a grand jury in connection with an assault near a nightclub in downtown Washington.
The charges Wednesday stem from a fight that broke out in the early morning hours of June 10, 2011 outside the Lotus Lounge. Investigators reviewing video of the incident later recognized that several off-duty police officers were involved in the fight while working as bouncers at the club.
Authorities say two of the officers, Kenneth McRavin and Thaddeus Modlin, repeatedly kicked and beat a man outside the club. Another officer, Keith Goins, is accused of not intervening. A fourth officer, Yolanda Lampkin, is charged with lying to a grand jury investigating the assault.
It was not immediately clear if the four officers had attorneys.
Source: SF Gate
One Dallas biker wasn’t looking for trouble, but he found it when he was pulled over by a Deputy Sheriff. The officer first claims that he is making the arrest to confiscate the biker’s helmet camera, but changes his mind mid-arrest. We spoke to the biker’s attorney to find out more details on this wild story.
SOME OPERATING ASSUMPTIONS
Each of the 50 states has a freedom of information act or an open records law. Virtually all such laws were enacted post-Watergate, in the mid-1970’s. Under these laws, community groups can request and obtain access to police reports, investigations, policies and tape recordings regarding a controversial incident, such as a beating, shooting, or false arrest. If the police refuse to disclose information to representatives of your community, that refusal in itself should become the focus of organizing and public attention. Ultimately, your community can sue to compel disclosure, unless the records you seek are specifically exempted.
STRATEGY #4: EDUCATE THE PUBLIC
PROFILE: Police Practices Project, ACLU of Northern California The Police Practices Project conducts education programs to teach citizens about their constitutional rights. One aspect of the police abuse problem, the project believes, is that the police tend to abuse certain people partly because they think these individuals don’t know their rights, or don’t know how to assert their rights. The project also believes that its programs have the added advantage of recruiting groups and individuals to work in police reform campaigns.
The project also publishes wallet-size cards in English, Spanish and Chinese that inform citizens about what to do or say in encounters with the police. These cards have been widely distributed in the community. (One card-holder reported that he pulled out his card when confronted by a police officer, only to have the officer reach into his wallet and pull out his own copy of the same card!)
The project believes that individual citizens and community groups become informed about police policies just by participating in the preparation of educational materials and training sessions. That participation also fosters awareness about particular areas of police practice that need reform. Most important, education empowers even the most disenfranchised people and helps deter the police from treating them abusively.
If Your Are Stopped in Your Car
Show your driver’s license and registration upon request. You can in certain cases be searched without a warrant so long as the police have probable cause.
To protect yourself later, you should make it clear that you do not consent to a search.
If you are given a ticket, you should sign it, otherwise you can be arrested. You can always fight the case in court later.
If you are suspected of drunken driving and refuse a blood, urine or breath test, your driving license can be suspended.
If You Are Arrested or Taken to a Police Station You have the right to remain silent and talk to a lawyer before you talk to the police. Tell the police nothing except your name and address. Do not give explanations, excuses or stories. You can make your defense in court based on what you and your lawyer decide is best.
Ask to see a lawyer immediately. If you cannot pay for a lawyer, you have a right to a free one, and you should ask the police how the lawyer can be contacted. Do not talk without a lawyer.
I have heard and here members of clubs telling me their stories of how Law Enforcement officers are daily pulling them over and treating very badly. This is very disturbing to hear because most of the traffic stops are being performed by “Gang Task Force Units” of various cities here in the Alameda County, San Francisco, San Mateo, Tracy, Livermore, Manteca, Hayward, San Leandro, and other cities here in Northern California.
What’s so disturbing about is that there are no logs or records of these traffic Stops where they stop bikers or people on motorcycles who they have deemed to be gang members or people affiliating with gang members. I have searched the web and came up empty. And most people who have been victims of these “Guantanamo Bay Detention” type traffic stops where they abuse, beat, unlawfully search and detain.
This is Police Misconduct and we must fight against this every-time one of us is victim to it. How do we fight it, well first we need to know what it is.
Police Misconduct occurs when an officer violates someone’s constitutional rights. This misconduct can subject the officer and the police department to both civil and criminal penalties.
Criminal Police Misconduct
If you think your rights were violated by the police:
Only We the people can stop the abuse of power and government. We all must stand together to be heard!
Source: The Dirtbag Blog