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.

Sep 8 2011

“Wiretapping” charge against Beau Davis dropped

Dr. Q

In late August, I wrote about how Beau Davis of Liberty On Tour was charged with “wiretapping” by the Greenfield police. When I wrote that post, I was cynical and noted my belief that Beau’s charge would likely go to trial. Luckily, it turns out that I was wrong.

Earlier today, Beau explained on Facebook that his charge was dropped:

So, for those of you who were wondering what happened with the wiretapping arraignment in Greenfield, MA yesterday, the district attorney Jeffrey A. Bengston has decided not to pursue the wiretapping charges due specifically to the decision on Simon Glik’s case.

The Simon Glik case mentioned by Beau is, of course, the case recently covered by Massachusetts Cop Block in which a federal court ruled that there is a well-established right to openly record police in Massachusetts and that police can be sued for violating that right.

It’s great news that Beau’s charge was dropped before going to trial. Hopefully now the Greenfield police will think twice about using frivolous “wiretapping” charges to punish people who record them.

Aug 29 2011

Greenfield police charge LOT’s Beau Davis with “wiretapping”

Dr. Q

Beau Davis, whom I’ve spoken with a few times in the past, recently announced that police in Greenfield, Massachusetts have charged him with “wiretapping” for reasons that are currently unknown to him.

Beau has worked with my friends Adam Mueller and Pete Eyre on their project Liberty On Tour. Last year, prior to starting Liberty On Tour, Adam and Pete were arrested by the Greenfield police and charged with wiretapping for recording themselves trying to bail a friend out of the Franklin County Jail. They thoroughly documented their arrest, court hearings, and other interactions with the Greenfield police at Cop Block and Liberty On Tour with blog posts, legal documents, and, most importantly, videos, some of which were made with Beau’s assistance.

It seems likely that Beau’s wiretapping charge has something to do with the work he did with Adam and Pete during their wiretapping ordeal.

Here’s how Beau described the charges on his new blog which he just launched to raise awareness about his case:

A few days ago, my parents in FL received a letter in the mail from the Trial Court of Massachusetts District Court Department, stating that I needed to be present in court in Greenfield, MA, alleging that I unlawfully wiretapped a member of the Greenfield Police Department on May 20, 2011.  The charge is, as it is written in the letter, “WIRETAP, UNLAWFUL c272 §99(C)(1)”, which is a felony in Massachusetts.  The charge was filed on August 11, 2011.  It is August 21, 2011 and I am just now receiving the letter today from my parents.  The date of the arraignment is September 7, 2011.

I still do not know how Greenfield acquired my parents address back home; I can only speculate at this point.

The court has not stated how I have allegedly committed this offense, so I have nothing to go on at the moment, other than speculation.  Now, why Greenfield, MA is trying this again after they failed to convict my friends Pete Eyre and Ademo Freeman for the same “offense”, I do not know.  This could be to save face or to try and further make an example of one who tries to hold public officials accountable for their actions.  I do not understand their motives as I do not yet know who I’ve apparently hurt in the matter.

— Beau Davis, “The Letter That Came In The Mail,” 5 Years For Filming a Cop, August 21, 2011

As I’ve discussed on this blog numerous times before, the Massachusetts wiretapping statute only prohibits the creation of “secret” audio-recordings. Unless a prosecutor can show that Beau “secretly” recorded the police, (by, for instance, hiding a recording device in his pocket), then it’s unlikely that he will be convicted of wiretapping.

But even if Beau did openly record the police, it’s still likely that his charge will go to trial. When Adam and Pete were arrested for wiretapping, they held their cameras in plain sight and made it clear that they intended to record the police, but that didn’t stop Northwestern Assistant District Attorney Jeffrey Bengston from prosecuting them nor did it stop Judge William F. Mazanec III from refusing to dismiss their bogus charges.

As soon as more information about Beau’s case becomes available, I’ll post an update.