Lawsuit alleges Boston police beat man for recording friend’s arrest

Dr. Q

Earlier today, civil rights attorneys Howard Friedman and David Milton filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Maury Paulino, a Boston resident who says he was beaten and arrested by a Boston police officer for recording his friend’s arrest with a cell phone camera on November 18, 2009 while three other officers watched and failed to intervene.

The lawsuit (.pdf) alleges that the police violated Paulino’s first, fourth, and fourteenth amendment rights by arresting and brutalizing him. The suit names the four police officers — Seth Richard, Nicholas Onishuk, Richard Davis, and James Moore — as defendants. The suit also names the City of Boston “for failing to supervise and discipline Boston police officers, thereby permitting them to unlawfully arrest people for videotaping police officers performing their official duties in public.” The suit seeks unspecified monetary damages.

According to the lawsuit, Maury Paulino, who was 19-years-old at the time, went to the Boston Police B-2 station to bail out his friend, Pablo Guerrero. After paying the bail and waiting for about 15 minutes, he saw Guerrero enter the lobby of the police station followed by Officer Seth Richard. The two were in the middle of an argument. Officer Richard allegedly shoved Guerrero and Paulino told him that they should leave. Officer Richard continued to shove Guerrero as he exited the station through the front door.

Once they were outside the police station, Officer Richard, now joined by officers Nicholas Onishuk and Richard Davis, approached Guerrero to arrest him again. The three began shoving Guerrero repeatedly and threatened to pepper spray him. It was at this point that Paulino pulled out his cell phone and began recording.

You can see his recording here:

While the three police officers arrested Guerrero and sprayed him with pepper spray, Paulino asked them why they were using so much force.

As the officers brought Guerrero back into the police station, Officer Richard asked the other officers for a second set of handcuffs so he could arrest Paulino (this can be heard on the video). Officer Richard allegedly tackled Paulino at this point.

While Paulino was on the floor, the three officers were joined by Sgt. James Moore, a supervising officer.

Officer Richard began punching Paulino in the face, dousing him with pepper spray, and kneeing him in the face. While this was going on, none of the other three officers attempted to intervene.

Once Paulino was bailed out of jail by his mother, he went directly to the ER at Boston Medical Center where he was treated for multiple injuries to his face, jaw, and mouth including bruising by his toothline and jawline, abrasions on his neck, bleeding from his mouth, nose, and lips, and laceration on his scalp. Paulino was also spitting up blood from his injuries.

Paulino was charged with disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, two counts of assault and battery on a police officer, and felony wiretapping.

The “wiretapping” charge against Paulino is one of the more interesting aspects of the story. As I’ve explained numerous times on this blog before, the state’s wiretapping statute only criminalizes secretly audio-recording others, yet Paulino’s video clearly shows that his camera was out in the open.

Paulino’s suit was filed just months after a federal appeals court ruled that the right to openly record police in Massachusetts is clearly established and police cannot claim “qualified immunity” against lawsuits if they interfere with this right. That ruling stems from a similar incident in which attorney Simon Glik was arrested on a “wiretapping” charge by Boston police for recording an arrest with his cell phone camera on the Boston Common in 2007.

Paulino and Glik are just two of many individuals who have been wrongfully charged with “wiretapping” by Massachusetts police officers for exercising their right to record and document police activity.

Luckily, the wiretapping charge against Paulino was dismissed by a clerk magistrate. Paulino was acquitted of all the other charges at trial.

It will be interesting to see how this suit plays out. I’ll post an update as soon as more information becomes available.

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