Sep 25 2013

Brookline police arrest man for swearing at them

Dr. Q

Wicked Local reports:

A Jamaica Plain man who was approached by police because he reportedly was falling asleep on a bench, cursed at the officers, and was arrested.

John Leamay, 54, was sleeping on a Harvard Street bench on Saturday, Sept. 21, when he was approached by police. According to the report, the officers stopped to check on Leamay’s wellbeing, but he became increasingly agitated. They asked him for identification and his date of birth. He refused to state his date of birth and began yelling “incoherent” statements, according to the report.

Leamay said, “I spent all day at the hospital,” and “This is going to end up on Facebook,” according to the report.

After he was let go, Leamay allegedly walked down Harvard Street and yelled, “F—— cops, this is bulls—.”

The officers approached him for a second time and Leamay allegedly gave them the middle finger and stated, “Do you guys get a hard on for this s— or something?”

As he attempted to walk away, the officers got a hold of him and attempted to arrest him for disorderly conduct. Leamay allegedly spit on the officers and kicked both of them.

He was placed under arrest and charged with disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and two counts of assault and battery on a police officer.

This seems like a pretty clear case of police misconduct. Police cannot arrest someone for swearing. This is a basic freedom of speech issue. Having someone swear at you may be unpleasant, but it’s not something you can arrest someone over.

I will outright state that police who arrest people for swearing are pathetic. Police are supposed to be highly skilled, trained professionals. They should not be resorting to violence over something that retail workers, bank tellers, and anyone else with a customer service-related job have to put up with.

On the other hand, as a purely practical matter, I wouldn’t really recommend swearing at the police. It isn’t likely to do you much good.

I also wouldn’t recommend fighting back against police if they falsely arrest you like this man was accused of doing. I do believe that people have the right to resist unlawful arrests, but it’s considered illegal to resist even unlawful arrests in most states.


Aug 14 2013

Man assaulted by Boston police sergeant for taking video

Dr. Q

It’s been more than a year since the City of Boston paid out over $200,000 in settlements to people falsely arrested for video-recording cops, but Boston police still haven’t learned their lesson.

Last year, the taxpayers of Boston were forced to pay $170,000 to Simon Glik and $33,000 to Maury Paulino. Both men were arrested — Glik in 2007 and Paulino in 2009 — by Boston police officers for openly video-recording cops making arrests in public.

During Glik’s legal odyssey, the First Circuit federal appeals court explained in a ruling that recording the police in public is a well-established, constitutionally protected right and police can be sued for violating this right.

Despite these rulings and hefty settlements, a Boston police sergeant showed yesterday that he felt perfectly comfortable physically assaulting someone for video-recording, threatening him with arrest, and forcing him to cross the street against his will.

Boston-resident Jay Kelly was walking down the sidewalk of Adams Street in Dorchester, just a few blocks away from where he lives, when he noticed a group of police detaining several people. He walked past the police, took out his cellphone, and began recording out of concern for the people who had been detained.

"Sarge"

“Sarge”

It wasn’t long before Kelly was approached by a pudgy, balding thug in a blue shirt who asked him why he was “taking pictures” of “undercover” — no — “plainclothes police officers.”

“You’ve got guns on the street,” Kelly said, expressing the appropriate skepticism one should have for a group of armed strangers.

The cop told Kelly that he could record, but said that he was somehow “putting plainclothes officers’ safety at risk.”

The officer showed Kelly his badge, but promptly covered it up and walked away after Kelly attempted to record it. Kelly was able to read that the officer’s badge number was 362.

“What’s your name, officer?” Kelly asked.

“Actually, it’s sergeant,” the cop petulantly replied. The cop never told Kelly his name, so we’ll refer to him as “Sarge” for the purposes of this article.

Sarge and a red-shirted cop (later identified as “Fabiano”) began telling Kelly that he would have to move down the street.

“You guys like shooting it out with people,” Kelly told the cops, expressing his anger at their ridiculous orders.

Sarge became enraged by Kelly’s comment and began walking toward him menacingly and assaulted him by grabbing at his camera.

Sarge continued walking toward Kelly, forcing him to back up the length of two parked cars. At one point, Sarge walked into Kelly and threatened to arrest him for assaulting and battering a police officer if they came into physical contact again. “I was threatened with arrest for pushing him when in the video I am clearly moving back,” Kelly told me.

Sarge ordered Kelly to cross the street. When Kelly pointed out that it would be jaywalking to do so, the cop walked into the street and began blocking off traffic.

After Kelly crossed the street, he continued recording the police for several minutes.

Sarge yelled at Kelly from across the street that the people the police were detaining did not want to be recorded. “They can tell me that if they want,” Kelly said. None of the individuals told Kelly to stop recording.

Kelly doesn’t record police very often, “but if something seems amiss, I would stop and observe [the police] any time,” he told me. He said he recorded police a number of times during his involvement with Occupy Boston. He also mentioned that he was pushed around by a State Police Captain for video-recording at the State House last year in April.

Kelly said he has contacted the American Civil Liberties Union about yesterday’s incident. He also contacted Deputy Superintendent John J. Daley of the Boston Police Department in order to file a complaint. He said he was interested in pressing assault charges against Sarge.

Kelly pointed out to me that the Boston Police Department sometimes uses its Twitter account to ask for witnesses of shootings to come forward, but in this case, the police were trying to stop him from witnessing what was happening. “They only want witnesses when convenient to them,” he said. “Fuck that bullshit.”

“They’re all bastards,” Kelly said of police. He said he suffers from PTSD because of his past interactions with police officers and his experience spending several years in jail.

Nevertheless, Kelly said that after yesterday’s incident, he is probably more likely to record police he sees in the future.


Aug 6 2013

Cop Block founder sues Greenfield police over 2010 arrest

Dr. Q

Ademo Freeman (legal name Adam Mueller), the founder of Cop Block, has filed a lawsuit against the Greenfield Police Department over his 2010 arrest for recording at a jail in Greenfield.

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.


Jun 15 2013

Palmer settles suit with man who was arrested for trying to record auction

Dr. Q

The Town of Palmer has agreed to pay a $5,000 settlement to Ian Freeman who was falsely arrested by police last year for trying to record a public auction. Police arrested Freeman at the behest of the town manager who took it upon himself to personally ban cameras at the public building where the auction was taking place despite not having the authority to do so (Source: The Republican).

Details here:

Ian Freeman, the New Hampshire man arrested in October for disorderly conduct for attempting to videotape a public auction, was paid $5,000 by the town of Palmer as part of a settlement, the town manager confirmed Thursday.

Town Manager Charles T. Blanchard said the town opted to pay the $5,000, which represents its insurance deductible, to end the case, and avoid the potential of future civil rights suits filed on behalf of Freeman, 32.

Last month, the remaining charge against Freeman – a municipal ordinance violation for being disorderly before the October auction – was dismissed in Palmer District Court. Back in December, a criminal disorderly conduct charge against Freeman in connection with the case was not prosecuted.

Freeman’s case was taken on by the American Civil Liberties Union. Freeman is a journalist and blogger who runs “Free Talk Live,” a radio show in Keene, N.H.

“The $5,000 settlement, in conjunction with dismissal of all charges, we believe vindicates the First Amendment rights that were at stake in this case,” said William C. Newman, director of the Western Massachusetts chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Blanchard said he does not regret having signs posted at the Town Building that warned visitors not to videotape, as the auction did go off without any problems. The signs have since been removed. They were placed throughout the building on the day of the auction of town-owned properties on the advice of another lawyer, Peter Brown, as there were concerns that supporters of Joseph “Jay” Noone, including Freeman, would disrupt the auction. Noone’s Main Street property in Bondsville was part of the auction

Here’s the video of Freeman getting arrested:

Disclosure: When I lived in New Hampshire, I was acquainted with Freeman. We were never close friends, but we were on good terms.


Jun 6 2013

Cameron D’Ambrosio free after grand jury refuses to indict

Dr. Q

I have some great news. A grand jury has refused to indict Cameron D’Ambrosio, the teenager who was accused by prosecutors of making “terroristic threats” because of some rap lyrics he posted online.

Rolling Stone magazine has the story here:

A grand jury has declined to indict an aspiring Massachusetts rapper whom police had accused of making “terroristic threats,” according to the Essex County District Attorney’s office. Cameron D’Ambrosio, 18, was arrested in Methuen, Massachussetts on May 2nd after posting a rap verse on his Facebook wall that contained the line, “fuck a boston bombinb [sic] wait til u see the shit I do, I’ma be famous for rapping, and beat every murder charge that comes across me.” The high school student has been held in jail since then without bail. “There will be a bail hearing this afternoon, after which point he will probably be released, is my educated guess,” says Essex County DA spokesperson Carrie Kimball Monahan.

Prosecutors sought to charge D’Ambrosio with threats to make a bomb or hijack a vehicle, carrying a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. Danielle Simpson, a legal assistant to D’Ambrosio’s lawyer, says they expect D’Ambrosio to be released on his own recognizance and home by Thursday night. An additional court date is scheduled for June 27th in Lawrence district court, but Kimball Monahan said the DA would not likely bring additional charges.

Before the indictment was rejected, civil liberties advocates said the case raised serious concerns. “This is a travesty of free speech, and a travesty of the First Amendment,” says Evan Greer, the campaign manager for Center for Rights, which created an online petition in support of D’Ambrosio. According to Greer, a search of D’Ambrosio’s house after his arrest yielded no evidence of bomb-making materials. “We should never allow tragedies to limit rights,” says Greer, who believes that authorities over-reacted in the wake of the recent violence in Boston. “It doesn’t actually make us safer.”

Fight for the Future has confirmed that D’Ambrosio has been released from jail.

Update (same day as original post): According to The Boston Herald’s coverage of this story, the Methuen police chief and the district attorney are unrepentant about their decision to target D’Ambrosio:

Essex County District Attorney spokeswoman Carrie Kimball-Monihan said there are no plans to attempt to bring lesser charges in district court. She said prosecutors will file a motion ending prosecution against D’Ambrosio at a future date.

“We presented the case. We called witnesses. It’s the function of the grand jury to hear the evidence,” Kimball-Monihan said.

Methuen Police Chief Joseph Solomon said he stands by his department’s arrest of D’Ambrosio, two weeks after the Boston attacks that killed three bystanders and wounded more than 260. An MIT police officer was later executed and an MBTA cop severely wounded in a shootout with the terror suspects.

“Although we disagree with the grand jury’s decision, we respect it,” Solomon said. “Several judiciary levels have confirmed the probable cause in this case as it has worked its way thought the criminal justice system. We will continue to take all threats against our community seriously and will always utilize due diligence in our investigation.”

Update (6/7/2013): According to the Eagle-Tribune’s coverage, D’Ambrosio may not be able to graduate high school this year because he (obviously) missed school while he was in jail:

D’Ambrosio would have graduated this Sunday with his classmates at Methuen High School. But his education and future have been in limbo after he was suspended and while he’s been confined to a jail cell after a judge declared him a threat to the community.

With the charges against D’Ambrosio dropped, it’s not clear whether he will be allowed to make up any incomplete course work and graduate this year. His class is due to graduate Sunday.

“This is the first I’m hearing of the (grand Jury) decision,” Methuen School Superintendent Judith Scannell said last night.

“I have not received a call from the District Attorney’s office. I will be meeting with the high school administration tomorrow to discuss next steps,” Scannell said.

[D’Ambrosio’s lawyer Geoffrey] DuBosque said he didn’t know how yesterday’s developments will affect his client’s standing at Methuen High School or what the family planned to do.

“Whether he will be able to graduate now, I don’t know. I have been focused on representing him in the criminal courts. I haven’t been involved in the school proceedings,” he said.

This story is just one of many examples showing that “innocent until proven guilty” is a lie in the United States. All this teenager did was make a stupid post on his Facebook. He didn’t do anything illegal. A grand jury wouldn’t even indict him. And yet he spent over a month in jail and had his life significantly disrupted because some scumbag prosecutor wanted to make a name by scoring a “terrorism” conviction in the wake of the Boston marathon bombings.

There need to be real consequences for government officials who abuse their powers like this.

It’s not much, but you can find the contact info fore the Methuen police department here and the contact info for the Essex Country District Attorney here. If you get a chance, give the police chief and DA a call and let them know how you feel about them abusing their power.


May 23 2013

Salem police harass free speech activists

Dr. Q

You may have already heard about the case of Cameron D’Ambrosio (or “Cammy Dee”). D’Ambrosio, an 18-year old student, was arrested by police in Methuen after he posted some rap lyrics he had written that referenced the Boston marathon bombings on his Facebook page. He has been charged as a terrorist and held without bail.

These are the lyrics Cameron posted:

All you haters keep my fuckin’ name outcha mouths, got it? what the fuck I gotta do to get some props and shit huh? Ya’ll wanme to fucking kill somebody? What the fuck do these fucking demons want from me? Fucking bastards I ain’t no longer a person, I’m not in reality. So when u see me fucking go insane and make the news, the paper, and the fuckin federal house of horror known as the white house, Don’t fucking cry or be worried because all YOU people fucking caused this shit. Fuck a boston bominb wait till u see the shit I do, I’ma be famous rapping, and beat every murder charge that comes across me!”

It should be pretty obvious that these lyrics were not intended to be a threat. As Tim Cushing of the blog Techdirt observes:

When I reread his words, I don’t find him threatening to kill anyone. He says he’ll “go insane” and make “the news, the paper, the (expletive) federal house of horror the White House.” “Go insane” is not the same thing as threatening violence and its takes a lot of willingness to see something that’s not actually there to believe it does. Sure, D’Ambrosio mentions both the White House and the Boston bombing, but simply throwing those words into a sentence (and filling the rest out with expletives) doesn’t turn this into a credible threat, or at least not one that should result in a 20-year sentence.

By all means, the police should be willing to investigate perceived threats, but putting this into context (your average profane, overdramatic, attention-seeking, rap fan teenager) should have resulted in little more than a discussion about the possibility that word dumps like this could have negative consequences or legal repercussions.

Earlier today, D’Ambrosio was finally given a court hearing to determine whether or not he could post bail and be freed from jail.

Several free speech advocates went to the courthouse where D’Ambrosio’s hearing was taking place to stage a small protest. They were asked to leave even though they had every right to be there. They complied anyway, but were then harassed again by officers of the Salem Police Department. You can see video here:

If you’d like to contact the Salem Police Department to demand that they stop harassing free speech activists, I’ve included their contact information below:

  • Business 978-744-0171
  • Non-Emergency Request for Police 978-744-1212

You should also click here and sign the petition to get Cameron D’Ambrosio’s ridiculous charges dropped.

Update (same day as the original post): I just got the following additional information from the person who uploaded the videos (via Twitter): “there were only 2 activists present w/ only 1 of whom stood on the forbidden sidewalk vs 6 pd & the Sargent returned to complain about being filmed w/o consent & threatened to take the camera.” Apparently the Sergeant has never heard of Simon Glik.

Update (5/24/2013): Here’s a small update on Cameron D’Ambrosio’s hearing from the Eagle-Tribune:

The Methuen High School student who has held been in jail for three weeks on charges related to a threatening post on his Facebook page, was in Salem Superior Court yesterday morning to ask again for his release, while civil liberties groups ratcheted up pressure to free him on First Amendment grounds.

Cameron D’Ambrosio, 18, asked Superior Court Judge John Lu to be released with conditions, such as a GPS monitoring bracelet, a prohibition on using computers, and checking in regularly with probation.

Judge Lu did not issue a ruling yesterday.

Geoffrey DuBosque, D’Ambrosio’s attorney, said yesterday D’Ambrosio is not a threat and is willing to submit to court-imposed restrictions for his release.

“My argument is, one, he’s not a danger, but if the court were to find he is a danger, there are conditions the court could impose,” DuBosque said.

D’Ambrosio on May 1 wrote on his Facebook page a profanity-laden post that said he would outdo the April 15 Boston Marathon bombing, “be famous for rapping, and beat every murder charge that comes across me!”

Students at Methuen High School, where D’Ambrosio is a senior, reported the post immediately to administrators, who alerted the school’s police officer. D’Ambrosio was arrested later that afternoon on Pleasant Street in Methuen.

Police searched D’Ambrosio, his book bag and his parent’s home, finding no weapons, manifestos or specific plans or threats to commit violence, DuBosque said.

“His house was searched and they found absolutely nothing in his house that was indicative of someone who is a danger,” he said. “They searched his book bag and his person when they arrested him and found nothing indicative of someone who is a danger.”

Update (5/24/2013): Apparently there was more video of the protesters interacting with the court employees that I missed the first time around. I’ve updated the post so that it now includes the entire video.

Update (5/27/2013): Somehow I missed this news, but the judge for D’Ambrosio’s case denied him bail on Friday, the day after the hearing. Very shameful.

Also, the activist who recorded the Salem police harassment has posted a video here where she explains what happened in a little more detail. The discussion of the protest and police harassment occurs at about the 7 minute mark.

Update ((5/28/2013): Techdirt has some good commentary on the judge’s decision to deny D’Ambrosio bail here. Also, I updated the post with a more complete version of D’Ambrosio’s rap.