Victims & Heroes: The Fight for Our Right to Record Police

A recent history of notable arrests and litigants whose court cases are poised to unravel unjust wiretapping laws. (Image by Alejandro Gonzalez, USA Today.)

2007-02-20 00:00:00

Journalist Carlos Miller Arrested for Photographing Police

Carlos Miller is a Miami journalist who has been arrested three times for recording police in public. He writes the popular "Photography is Not a Crime" blog documenting First Amendment violations against photographers throughout the country.

2007-10-01 00:00:00

Simon Glik Arrested for Recording Arrest in Public Park

Lawyer Simon Glik was arrested on October 1, 2007, after openly using his cell phone to record three police officers roughly arresting a suspect on the Boston Common. Glik was charged under the state’s “interception of wire & oral communication” statute. In addition to the felony wiretap charge, Glik was also charged with disturbing the peace and aiding the escape of a prisoner.

2008-07-25 00:00:00

Bicyclist Assaulted by NYPD Officer

After the assault, police charged bicyclist Chris Long with resisting arrest and, ironically, attempted assault. These manufactured charges were dropped after this video was posted anonymously on YouTube. The officer, Patrick Pogan, was fired and later convicted of falsifying the criminal complaint. He received no jail time. The city paid Long a $65,000 settlement.

2008-08-12 00:00:00

Video Reveals Police Lied After Beating Denver Man

The Denver District Attorney's office has dropped its case against a man who was facing three years in prison for assault, after 9Wants to Know obtained and showed prosecutors a videotape of the man's arrest. The Denver Police Department has also started an internal investigation. On the video, which was shot outside Coors Field on the home opener of the Colorado Rockies game on April 4, undercover Denver Police detectives hit, kick and choke John Heaney.

2008-11-04 00:00:00

Cop Arrests Man Videotaping on His Property

New Hampshire resident Cooper Travis was arrested at his home for openly recording an encounter with a police officer.

2009-01-01 00:00:00

Oscar Grant Killed by BART Officer

Despite desperate attempts by BART authorities to confiscate witness cell phone videos, footage of the shooting was disseminated to media outlets and the web. Thus it became the first police shooting video to "go viral."

2009-01-13 00:00:00

Michael Allison Charged with Felony Wiretapping

Michael Allison, a 41-year-old backyard mechanic from southeastern Illinois, faces up to 75 years in prison for an act most people don’t realize is a crime: recording public officials.

2009-03-06 00:00:00

Tasha Ford Arrested for Videotaping Police

South Florida woman was thrown in jail overnight and charged with an “eavesdropping” felony after she videotaped police officers with their knowledge in a movie theater parking lot Saturday night. Although a judge dropped the felony charge against her the following morning, leaving her with a misdemeanor resisting arrest without violence charge, Boynton Beach Police have yet to return her camera, insisting that they still need it for “evidence.” Adding insult to injury, she believes one of the arresting officers sent her an email bordering on sexual harassment, if not surpassing it, insinuating that she had lesbian sex with other inmates during her incarceration.

2009-08-13 00:00:00

ACLU Sues on Behalf of Pittsburgh Man

PITTSBURGH -- The ACLU sued on behalf of a Hill District man Thursday, saying he was wrongly charged with violating state wiretap law when he recorded a police incident with his cell phone. Elijah Matheny and his friend had been looking for items discarded by University of Pittsburgh students who were leaving for the semester in April, according to the lawsuit in U.S. District Court.

2009-11-09 14:14:34

Antonio Musumeci Arrested for Videotaping at Federal Building

Libertarian activist Antonio Musumeci was unlawfully arrested by federal officers after exercising his First Amendment right to record digital video outside of a federal courthouse in Lower Manhattan.

2009-12-09 00:00:00

Chris Drew Charged with Felony Evesdropping

When a Cook County jury in August acquitted a woman of violating Illinois' strict eavesdropping law, an unassuming man with wire-rimmed glasses and wispy white hair sat in the gallery, quietly taking notes. Chris Drew had good reason to keep an eye on the case — he's facing trial on the same felony charge of eavesdropping on a public official, which carries up to 15 years in prison.

2010-04-13 00:00:00

Video Reveals Police Lied About Maryland Student Beating

A Prince George's County, Maryland, police officer has been suspended, and prosecutors are investigating an incident -- caught on video -- in which officers wielding nightsticks beat a University of Maryland student, officials said Tuesday. Authorities also are looking into documents filed by police in the case that appear to contradict the video, Prince George's County police Lt. Andy Ellis said.

2010-04-14 00:00:00

Anthony Graber Charged Under Maryland Wiretapping Law

After posting the infamous YouTube video of gun-wielding undercover Maryland State Trooper Joseph D. Uhler, Maryland police raid Graber's home and charge him with felony wiretapping.

2010-05-13 00:00:00

Judge Denies Chris Drew's Motion to Dismiss Charges

Last week, an Illinois judge rejected Chicago artist Christopher Drew's motion to dismiss the Class I felony charge against him. Drew is charged with violating the state's eavesdropping statute when he recorded his encounter with a police officer last December on the streets of Chicago. A Class I felony in Illinois is punishable by 4 to 15 years in prison. It's in the same class of crimes as sexual assault. Drew will be back in court in June to request a jury trial.

2010-06-25 00:00:00

ACLU Sues on Behalf of Tasha Ford

BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. – The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida today filed a lawsuit on behalf of Sharron Tasha Ford, asserting that she was falsely arrested by Boynton Beach police officers and concurrently had her First Amendment rights violated when the officers prevented her from videotaping their interactions. The ACLU is asking the court to affirm the right of citizens to record interactions with public officials performing official duties in public places, notwithstanding a state law that makes interceptions of certain oral communications a criminal offense if done without the consent of all parties to the communication. Audio recordings are an integral part of videotaping.

2010-07-05 00:00:00

Cop Block bloggers arrested on felony wiretapping charges for filming cops

Police once again used felony wiretapping charges to arrest a pair of men who were videotaping them in public. This time, the incident occurred in Massachusetts, a state that makes it illegal to secretly audio record a public official in public. However, in this case, it was no secret that the officers were being videotaped because one law enforcement officer even allowed them to continue filming before a cop from another agency stepped in to make the arrests.

2010-07-15 00:00:00

Pittsburgh DA Agrees to ACLU Settlement

The Allegheny County district attorney's office has agreed to settle a federal lawsuit against it by redistributing a memo explaining that it is not against the law to videotape a police officer in the course of doing his duty. The unusual settlement -- which includes no financial terms -- came about after a Hill District man was charged with violating state wiretap laws in April 2009.

2010-07-15 00:00:00

Judge Drops Wiretapping Charge Against Woman who Captured Police Beating

CHICOPEE, MA - A Springfield police officer was denied a criminal complaint against a woman who videotaped him standing by as a colleague allegedly brutally beat a black motorist with a flashlight during a traffic stop in 2009. Tyrisha Greene, 29, of Springfield, was summonsed to Chicopee District Court Wednesday for a hearing to explore whether an illegal wiretapping charge against her was warranted - at officer Michael Sedergren’s request.

2010-08-18 00:00:00

Tiawanda Moore Charged with Felony Eveasdropping

Tiawanda Moore, 20, goes to trial next month. She could face 15 years in prison, in her case for using her Blackberry to record her conversation with internal affairs officers at Chicago PD about an alleged sexual assault by a police officer. Moore recorded her interview after feeling her initial attempt to report the incident wasn't taken seriously.

2010-09-27 00:00:00

Maryland Judge Tosses Felony Wiretapping Charges Against Anthony Graber

Maryland Circuit Court Judge Emory A Pitt Jr.: "Those of us who are public officials and are entrusted with the power of the state are ultimately accountable to the public. When we exercise that power in public fora, we should not expect our actions to be shielded from public observation.”

2010-10-15 12:35:25

Feds Uphold Right to Record Outside Federal Buildings

In settling a lawsuit filed by the New York Civil Liberties Union, the federal government today recognized the public’s right to take photographs and record videos in public spaces outside federal courthouses throughout the nation.

2011-01-24 00:00:00

Federal Jury Says Cops Can't Arrest People for Recording Police Encounters

Last week a federal jury in Oregon awarded damages to an environmental activist who sued the city of Eugene after a police officer seized his video camera and arrested him for wiretapping. In March 2009, Josh Schlossberg was distributing leaflets outside Umpqua Bank in downtown Eugene when Sgt. Bill Solesbee told him to move along.

2011-05-12 00:00:00

Woman Arrested Videotaping Police from Her Own Front Yart

NEW YORK -- In May, the Rochester Police Department arrested Emily Good on a charge of obstructing governmental administration after she videotaped several officers' search of a man's car. The charge is a criminal misdemeanor.

2011-07-19 00:00:00

Jury Acquits Cop Block Founders of Felony Wiretapping

Just over a year after they were arrested on wiretapping charges in Massachusetts, Cop Block founders Adam Mueller and Pete Eyre were found not guilty.

2011-08-24 00:00:00

Jury Acquits Tiawanda Moore of Felony Eveasdropping

A woman who secretly recorded two Chicago Police Internal Affairs investigators while filing a sexual harassment complaint against another officer was acquitted on eavesdropping charges Wednesday.

2011-08-26 00:00:00

First Circuit Court Upholds Right to Record Police

In a unanimous opinion The U.S. Court of Appeals backs the First Amendment right to record the actions of police in public.

2011-08-26 00:00:00

David Ridley Not Guilty of Trespass

New Hampshire independent journalist Dave Ridley was acquitted yesterday of trespassing charges by Nashua district court judge Thomas Bamberger. Defending himself at trial, the arresting officers claimed that he refused to leave when ordered to do so. But Judge Bamberger acquitted him when his confiscated video proved otherwise.

2011-09-08 00:00:00

ACLU Wins Settlement Against Pittsburgh Police

The American Civil Liberties Union has won a $48,500 settlement of a lawsuit stemming from a Hill District man's arrest for videotaping police, it announced Wednesday. Elijah Matheny was arrested in April 2009 when he used his cell phone to record the arrest of a friend by University of Pittsburgh police. The police said they got Allegheny County District Attorney's Office approval to accuse him of wiretapping. All charges against Mr. Matheny later were dropped.

2011-09-13 00:00:00

ACLU Files Federal Lawsuit Against Illinois Wiretapping Law

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit heard arguments for and against the Illinois ban on audio recording of police in public places. Illinois has one of the country's strictest eavesdropping statutes, requiring consent from all parties even for recording police on the street while they are performing their official duties. Doing so without permission is a Class 1 felony punishable by a prison sentence of up to 15 years, exposing people to the risk of arrest and prosecution for recording public events such as protest rallies or their own encounters with the police.

2011-09-16 00:00:00

Illinois Judge Rules Eavesdropping Law Unconstitutional

Michael Allison, an Illinois man who faced a potential sentence of 75 years in prison for recording police officers and attempting to tape his own trial, caught a break last week when a state judge declared the charges unconstitutional. Although the decision a small victory for the First Amendment, the Illinois eavesdropping law is still in effect.

2012-01-10 00:00:00

Boston Police Reverse Stance on Glik Arrest

Two Boston police officers showed poor judgment when they arrested a bystander for filming them on Boston Common in 2007, the department has ruled, in a reversal of its initial position that the officers had done nothing wrong. The two officers, Sergeant Detective John Cunniffe and Officer Peter Savalis, face discipline ranging from an oral reprimand to suspension, a department spokeswoman said yesterday. The finding was released six months after the US First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that citizens have the right to record police officers while they are performing their duties.

2012-01-16 00:00:00

Tiawanda Moore Sues City, Challenges Law

A woman acquitted last fall of violating Illinois's eavesdropping law after recording Chicago Police officers discouraging her from filing a complaint alleging that another officer had touched her inappropriately has filed a federal suit against the city.

2012-03-02 00:00:00

Judge Rules Illinois Evesdropping Law Unconstitutional

A Cook County Judge declared the state’s eavesdropping law unconstitutional Friday, and a state lawmaker hopes the ruling provides momentum for her push to change the law. Judge Stanley J. Sacks issued the ruling in the case of Christopher Drew, a Chicago artist who was charged with felony eavesdropping after he recorded his Dec. 2, 2009, arrest on State Street by Chicago Police.

Victims & Heroes: The Fight for Our Right to Record Police

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