In a complaint (.pdf format) filed with the United States District Court of Massachusetts on July 1, Ademo’s attorneys Elaine Sharp and Cornelius Sullivan detail the facts of the case, most of which have been public knowledge for some time now.
On July 1, 2010, Ademo and Pete Eyre drove from New Hampshire to the Franklin County House of Corrections in Greenfield where they attempted to bail a friend out of jail. Ademo and Pete, who have worked together on documentary projects such the Motorhome Diaries and Liberty on Tour, brought their videos cameras with them to document the encounter at the jail.
Ademo and Pete were initially told by employees in the jail lobby that they could not record. They refused to shut their cameras off and were eventually able to speak to a supervisor who gave them permission to continue recording.
They did not have their driver’s licenses or sufficient money to post bail, so they left the jail to get money out of an ATM and retrieve their licenses from their RV which was parked a few miles away.
When they returned to the jail, they were again told that they could not record. A police officer, Sergeant Todd M. Dodge, entered the jail and told them that they would have to shut their cameras off or leave. They asked to speak to Dodge outside the jail.
Outside the jail, Ademo and Pete were eventually arrested by Dodge and two jail employees. They were both charged with wiretapping, trespassing, and resisting arrest. Pete also faced additional charges.
After they were arrested, the police illegally searched their RV. The police demanded that Ademo and Pete turn over the keys to the RV and threatened to break a window in order to gain entry if the keys were not provided to them. After the RV was searched, it was towed to an impound lot.
Ademo and Pete had their pants taken away from them and were forced to sleep in freezing cells without blankets or toilet paper. They were not given the opportunity to make phone calls or bail themselves out of jail. They were released from jail and arraigned the following day.
They were eventually given a joint trial at which they defended themselves pro se. They were acquitted by a jury.
The lawsuit also mentions an incident during which Ademo was issued a jaywalking citation by Greenfield police while passing out flyers to raise awareness about his situation. According to the lawsuit, the citation was issued in retaliation for Ademo exercising his first amendment rights.
The lawsuit names Todd M. Dodge and other unspecified Greenfield police officers as defendants. The lawsuit also names the town of Greenfield as a defendant for failing to properly train its police force and hold them accountable for misconduct.
The suit seeks unspecified damages and attorneys’ fees.
According to Open Media Boston, the defendants had not yet filed an answer to the complaint as of August 2, which means that no hearings have been scheduled yet.
Pete made the decision to not be involved with the lawsuit. “My rationale is that I don’t want to grant legitimacy to institutions founded on coercion,” he told me.
This was not the first or the last time the Greenfield police used a spurious “wiretapping” charge to punish people for recording their actions. In 2007, Greenfield police charged Emily Peyton with wiretapping after she recorded the arrest of an antiwar protester. The charges were later dropped. In 2011, Ademo and Pete’s friend Beau Davis was charged with wiretapping a Greenfield police officer for reasons that were unknown to him, but the charges were later dropped by the prosecutor.