75 Years for Taping the Police? Thats what One Man is Facing

I’m not sure what else could be said or written to make the folks aware of the urgency of this situation. There is a serious war being waged on ordinary folks at all levels, the most under reported involves the police who are rapidly going from state to state passing laws to make it illegal to not only videotape but also to simply take photographs..

Last week we told you about a case involving legendary producer Dr Dre who was facing a $3 BILLION dollar lawsuit for recording a police officer involved in a backstage dispute in Detroit. That case had been winding its way the Michigan court system for almost 10 years and finally made its way to the State Supreme Ct… many dismissed this and saw it as no big deal..

Now we have a man who is looking at 75 years in jail for videotaping the police.. Read the Alternet story below… While reading this ask yourself, what steps are you taking to fight back? Are you calling your congress person? Are you talking to local officials? Today its them.. Tomorrow it could be you who is caught up in some drama..

Also keep in mind that while police are busy pushing to pass these laws we have officers in Los Angeles lying to the public claiming they were shot.. Yes, you read that correctly…  Two weeks ago a  police officer said he was shot prompting  300 of his fellow officers to aggressively respond, They shut down schools, closed off streets and went running determined to find the culprit.. Turns out the officer who was shot lied..  You can read that story here in the LA Times

Folks may wanna take a listen to this important conversation we had on hard Knock Radio with privacy expert and lawyer King Downy about police and videotaping http://www.kpfa.org/archive/id/66995

-Davey D-

75-Year Prison Sentence for Taping the Police? The Absurd Laws That Criminalize Audio and Video Recording in America

By Lauren Kelley

Last January, Michael Allison, a 41-year-old mechanic from Bridgeport, Illinois, went to court to protest what he saw as unfair treatment from local police officers. Allison is an auto enthusiast who likes to tinker with cars, several of which he keeps on his mother’s property in the neighboring town of Robinson. Because both towns have “eyesore,” or abandoned property rules that require inoperable cars to be either registered or kept in a garage (which neither house had, and which Allison could not afford to build), Allison’s cars were repeatedly impounded by local officials.

Allison sued the city of Bridgeport in 2007, arguing that the eyesore law violated his civil rights and that the city was merely trying to bilk revenues from impound fees. This apparently enraged the local police, who, Allison alleges, began harassing him at home and threatening arrest when Allison refused to get rid of his cars.

Shortly before his January 2010 court date, Allison requested a court reporter for the hearing, making it clear to the county clerk that if one was not present he would record the proceedings himself.

With the request for a court reporter denied, Allison made good on his promise to bring his own audio recorder with him to the courthouse. Here’s what happened next, as reported by Radley Bilko in the latest issue of Reason magazine:

Just after he walked through the courthouse door the next day, Allison says Crawford County Circuit Court Judge Kimbara Harrell asked him whether he had a tape recorder in his pocket. He said yes. Harrell then asked him if it was turned on. Allison said it was. Harrell then informed the defendant that he was in violation of the Illinois wiretapping law, which makes it a Class 1 felony to record someone without his consent. “You violated my right to privacy,” the judge said.

Allison responded that he had no idea it was illegal to record public officials during the course of their work, that there was no sign or notice barring tape recorders in the courtroom, and that he brought one only because his request for a court reporter had been denied. No matter: After Harrell found him guilty of violating the car ordinance, Allison, who had no prior criminal record, was hit with five counts of wiretapping, each punishable by four to 15 years in prison. Harrell threw him in jail, setting bail at $35,000.

That’s up to 75 years in prison for breaking a law Allison did not know existed, and which he violated in the name of protecting himself from what he saw as an injustice.

As Bilko points out, Allison’s case may be extreme, but he is hardly alone in facing outsized punishment for efforts to combat police wrongdoing. Take Christopher Drew and Tiawanda Moore, two Chicagoans highlighted in the New York Times last week. Drew, a 60-year-old artist, faces up to 15 years in prison for using a digital video recorder during his December 2009 arrest for selling art without a permit. Drew had planned on getting arrested in protest of the permit law, which he saw as a violation of artists’ rights. He was unaware that filming the ordeal was illegal.

Likewise, Moore, a 20-year-old Southside resident, did not know it was illegal to record a conversation she had with two police officers last August, and she too faces a prison sentence of up to 15 years for doing so. Moore’s case is especially troubling because she was in the process of filing a complaint with the two officers about a third officer, who Moore alleges sexually harassed her in her home. She told the Times that she “was only trying to make sure no other women suffered at the hands of the officer” by making the recording. Presumably, she was also trying to protect herself in case she faced another lewd advance. Instead, the officers tried to talk her out of filing her complaint and then slapped her with eavesdropping charges when they found out her Blackberry was recording.

continue reading this story over at Alternet

9 comments on “75 Years for Taping the Police? Thats what One Man is Facing

  1. It seems to me then that many places of business, schools and even the police themselves are in violation of these laws when they record people on their dash cams and security cameras with out their consent. I often record phone calls in interviewing people and sometimes I will record certain persons with out telling them I am recording when it is part of my investigative citizen journalist work. To help me stay within the laws depending on what state I use this resource http://www.rcfp.org/taping/

  2. Would these violations also apply to private citizens who video/audiotape or record others or public officials in open areas (etc. sporting events, clubs, parks, city council meetings) and then post them on the internet without consent? At sporting events I have attended, when individuals (drunk and/or obnoxious) are arrested by police officers, you will be surprised how many people pull out their phones and record the incidents (for youtube and other internet viewing venues) without the officers blinking an eye. Heck, some (police and the arrestee) even posture for the camera phones. But, it would be interesting to see how often the laws are used/enforced by law enforcement or others. Another question would be whether any (or how many) public official (city, county, state or federal) is going to touch this subject given the funding they receive or sought for their pet projects or election campaigns?

  3. all i can say is this is why i live in california.

    however, you can’t bring audio (or video) recorders into court–it is a violation of privacy laws, and this guy should have known that.

    this charge seems egregious, however, since the judge could have just let it slide, or confiscated the recording. i seriously doubt this dude will get even the minimum sentence of 4 years, let alone 75, but then i dont live in Illinois.

    still, the headline is a bit misleading–it implies he rec’d 75 years, not that that’s the max he’s facing.

    since the incident occurred in a courtroom, this case isn’t exactly the same as documenting police abuse on the job. i cant expect it will have any ramifications as far as affecting citizen’s right to take audio or video of police actions in the field–which appears to already be illegal in Illinois.

    as for the other cases, both of them are in Illinois, and neither of those defendants have been convicted nor sentenced–so an appeal or dismissal is still possible, if not likely. in moore’s case, the fact that she was in the process of making a complaint seems like extenuating circumstances which could result in those charges getting tossed. still, that’s adding insult to injury.

    even if these charges are eventually dropped, the BS part is that legal fees are expensive. and these folks may end up doing time while appeals are pursued. likely, this could go all the way to the Supreme Court; i believe there are several legal challenges to these laws already working their way through the legal system.

    still, this does speak to where judges are at, and how little has changed since 1969, when Bobby Seale was on trial. Seale repeatedly claimed his Constitutional rights were violated and at one point, told the judge “you begin to oink.” for that he was manacled and gagged and ultimately given a four-year sentence for contempt of court. that trial was in Illinois as well.

    read about it here: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/1969/dec/04/a-special-supplement-the-trial-of-bobby-seale/

  4. ps if you read the rest of the AlterNet article, it goes on to note:

    “These stories all highlight Illinois’ draconian eavesdropping laws, which, ever since a privacy provision was overturned in 1994, have made it illegal to record audio of an individual without his or her consent. Carrying a sentence of between four and 15 years, the laws in the state are some of the harshest in the nation…
    The good news is that few people have actually been convicted under these laws for documenting police wrongdoing; neither Michael Allison nor Christopher Drew nor Tiawanda Moore are likely to go to prison for the recordings they made. The bad news, though, is that these laws are being used to intimidate the nation’s citizens, making them afraid to stand up against police officers and other officials who are acting illegally and/or immorally. As long as no one is convicted, the law goes unchallenged, notes Adam Schwartz, senior staff counsel for the ACLU of Illinois.”

    so no one has actually been convicted under these laws–and they won’t, because they are Unconstitutional and would not withstand appeal.

    however, it’s a Catch-22 which in effect allows for police harassment as long as these laws are on the books.

    like i said, thank God i live in California.

  5. I think it’s unfair for the officials to make it illegal to tape something that could save the victims and their family lives.The police want to continue to do unjustly things to people without suffering the consequences

  6. First off: Many police record you. unknowlingly, when they are conducting a field investigation—that is, a follow up on a crime/ compliant etc or what have you. Many also record you, again unkowingly via their police cars (it is understood they are acting in official comliance with their position) but neve let it be known.

    In this instance if I were his attorney: I would present the fact that the judge/court was given formal notice when he asked for a court reporter of which they denied and the fact that court was given advance notice the proceeding would be taped by the defendant—-CASE CLOSED—-He should also inconvience the judge/court for fals imprisonment/ making a fals report to law officers eetc…..That would keep them busy for awhile.

    Oh: Before anyone disputes my claims: Defendants CAN ask that all proceeding be recorded ( same as requesting an interuperter) in order that there be a record and that the proceedings are transparent…..

  7. Wake up America our freedom is under fire. Notice when the police was caught on tape years ago beating Rodney King the plan was already put in motion to cover their asses now that law is in your face. Meaning we are going to do what we want and we have been dumb down to give away your right to protect yourself..

  8. 75 years for recording Judge – Peaceful Demonstration 2-17-2011

    Peaceful Demonstration 2-17-2011
    Man facing 75 years in prison for audio recording public servants in Illinois. Perhaps some good people could come help us in Downstate Illinois. Planning demonstration 2-17-2011 @9am Crawford County Courthouse, Robinson Illinois. Defendant has court at 2:15 that same day. This case is not getting near the media attention it deserves. I have spoke with the Defendant on the phone and he would appreciate any support he can get. This man hasn’t done anything I wouldn’t do! Help us take a small stand for freedom!
    Here are a couple of links about the case:



    Robinson IL is south of Interstate 70 about 20 miles on Rte’s 1 & 33, in South-Eastern Illinois
    If interested please post a quick reply back. Thanks

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