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Obama Administration Supports Journalist Arrested For Recording Cops 238

Posted by Soulskill
from the to-protect-and-serve dept.
New submitter SplatMan_DK writes "Ars Technica reports that the Obama Administration has filed a brief in support of a Maryland photojournalist who says he was arrested and beaten after he took photographs of the police arresting two other men. The brief by the Justice Department argues that the U.S. Constitution protects the right to photograph the actions of police officers in public places and prohibits police officers from arresting journalists for exercising those rights. Context: 'Garcia says that when Officer Christopher Malouf approached him, Garcia identified himself as a member of the press and held up his hands to show he was only holding a camera. But Malouf "placed Mr. Garcia in a choke hold and dragged him across the street to his police cruiser," where he "subjected him to verbal and physical abuse." According to Garcia's complaint, Malouf "forcibly dragged Mr. Garcia across the street, throwing him to the ground along the way, inflicting significant injuries." Garcia says Malouf "kicked his right foot out from under him, causing Mr. Garcia to hit his head on the police cruiser while falling to the ground." Garcia claims that Malouf took the video card from Garcia's camera and put it in his pocket. The card was never returned. Garcia was charged with disorderly conduct. In December 2011, a judge found Garcia not guilty.'"
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Obama Administration Supports Journalist Arrested For Recording Cops

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  • by mbone (558574) on Friday March 08, 2013 @07:08PM (#43121843)

    There must be something (besides a dusting of snow) in the DC air - this appears to be an entirely reasonable reaction by the DOJ.

    • When I first saw the headline, I assumed it meant the administration was supporting the cops. Is it possible that the Justice Department also misread a line and filed a brief with the wrong side?

      Sounds crazy, but elected officials standing up for civilian rights against the police state sounds crazier.
      • by SirSlud (67381)

        No, you sound crazy. This happens all the time. Enjoy your confirmation bias. I'm certainly not an authority ass kisser, but needing to view the world in black and white means you're going to be wrong a lot of the time.

    • by jamesh (87723)

      There must be something (besides a dusting of snow) in the DC air - this appears to be an entirely reasonable reaction by the DOJ.

      The problem is that an idiot with a camera can manipulate the footage for their own gains. This happened in Australia just recently where a fairly violent arrest was made at the Mardi Gras after a guy 'groped' a stranger (whether it was sexual assault or not is for the courts to decide). The video released initially showed the cops in a very bad light - seeming unprovoked brutality, throwing him to the ground etc. Video and feedback that came out later showed that the cops started by trying to talk to the g

      • by bryan1945 (301828)

        This is a very good point. The recorder should not be arrested. As for the video, I don't see a problem if the police copy it and give the original card back to the recorder so an edited video, as you mentioned, isn't released with rebuttal. I know it's more complex than just those few points.

      • by nbauman (624611) on Saturday March 09, 2013 @04:48AM (#43124579) Homepage Journal

        While it is true that an idiot with a camera can manipulate footage for his own gain http://articles.latimes.com/2013/mar/07/local/la-me-0308-acorn-20130308 [latimes.com] it's also true that lawyers know how to investigate criminal incidents and can often expose the manipulation. For example, a defense lawyer who deals with that stuff all the time said, the first thing you do is look at the whole unedited tape. If the Obama administration had done that with James O'Keefe's attack on ACORN, O'Keefe wouldn't have been able to get away with his lies. Under US law, BTW, if there is an investigation into a crime, a judge can subpoena the entire video. That applies even to journalists, as well as to fake journalists like O'Keefe, and to bystanders who record it on cellphones.

        After an assault or a police confrontation, when different witnesses tell different stories, it's hard to reconstruct the facts. If you have a video of the incident, even part of the incident, that gives you some objective, reliable information to work with. Everybody knows that the video is just part of the story. The video doesn't testify by itself in court. Lawyers have to interview the photographer, consider the circumstances of the recording, and treat the video like any other piece of evidence. If you show a video of the cops beating up a suspect, the cops' lawyers have the right to give their version of what went on before that.

        The more evidence you have, the more likely you are to figure out the truth.

        When I look at the history of videos of police encounters in the last few years, I see a lot of incidents where the cops blatantly violated the law, committed assaults against innocent people, and committed perjury to cover it up. The videos at least got the false charges thrown out (although very seldom were the cops fired or prosecuted). Overall, the effect of videos has been good.

        Everybody who dealt with the cops knew for years that this was going on. Videos are making it easier to prove it. Cities are going to get hit with $500,000 lawsuits like Manny Garcia is bringing. The experience has been that they just settle, don't punish the cops, and don't reform their practices. But maybe if they lose a few millions of dollars in lawsuits, and their taxpayers find their real estate taxes are doubling to pay for it, they'll start to pay attention.

      • 1) The police should have a video recorder on their person which they cannot open or alter. Preferably it should stream to an eternal server whenever a connection is available.
        2) Any filming by individuals can be compared against that footage.

        Watch "Don't talk to the police" on Youtube.
        In it, a defense attorney and a policemen will both tell you that.
        1) what you say "can and will be used against you" but legally can't be used for you.
        2) it's only the policeman's memory of what happened which counts.
        3) if y

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 08, 2013 @07:08PM (#43121847)

    When a lowly citizen destroys evidence, it's a crime.

    • by evanism (600676)

      Ah, but the government can destroy its own citizens and it is not.

      An interesting thing, no?

      We think we have progressed so far, only to find we are rally 2 steps behind.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 08, 2013 @07:29PM (#43122061)

      When a lowly citizen kidnaps and beats a reporter, strong-arm robs them of an expensive camera, and then commits perjury by accusing them of a crime in open court, then that lowly citizen goes away for a VERY VERY long time.

    • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Friday March 08, 2013 @07:45PM (#43122219)
      Which is why if you are going to record the police, make sure it's uploading live or will e-mail the pictures away from the clumsy hands of the law

      There's this app [wired.com] for New Yorkers evidently. Any suggestions from anyone for those of us who don't live in NY?
      • " Any suggestions from anyone for those of us who don't live in NY?"

        Perhaps an eye fi [www.eye.fi] to some sort of public hotspot, say at the donuts shop? works with most sd card cameras.

      • by trawg (308495)

        The Skype guys have a mobile app called Qik Video that does this; I have it on my Android phone for situations like this.

  • by boarder8925 (714555) <thegreentrilby&gmail,com> on Friday March 08, 2013 @07:11PM (#43121863) Homepage
    Considering the administration's attacks on whistleblowers [guardian.co.uk], irony abounds.
  • Support? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hatta (162192) on Friday March 08, 2013 @07:11PM (#43121865) Journal

    Support is not writing a brief. Support is indicting the officers in question for Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law [fbi.gov]. These officers deserve the same treatment Obama's DOJ gave Aaron Swartz.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 08, 2013 @07:17PM (#43121913)

    Well, if it's anything like the Alex Landau [westword.com] case, there won't be any charges against the police.

    • we need a system that treats INCIDENTS as a whole and not "crimes". The charges were grievously wrong, as was the action of the police. In the course of dragging the person into court, the judge should be able to COMPEL the state's lawyers to file criminal charges against the police, and as officers of his court, compel the state's lawyers to do their best or face disbarment.

      This is a case where it sounds fair to prosecute each person individually, but an increasing number of cases have prosecution giving

      • by 0111 1110 (518466)

        Lashes wouldn't cut it when the police inflict head injuries, which they have a fondness for doing. And the charges filed to prevent charges from being filed against your officer for brutality, civil rights violations etc are commonly known as "cover charges".

        The strategy generally works perfectly too. As long as the charges are serious enough. The charges against me completely prevented me from suing them, which I probably would have done otherwise. The cops know that they can beat and even kill people wit

      • by cffrost (885375)

        I also think we need to bring back public whipping and a few other things. the punishment for these police needs to fit the crime, in this case PUNISHMENT is in order... seven lashes with a seven-corded whip would fix them right up. Right out on the court steps where everybody can see it.

        Reducing civil rights abuses by violating additional civil rights seems really foolish to me — and in the case of your suggestion, would mean and a complete abandonment of our rights under the Eight Amendment. [wikipedia.org]

        The difficulty with charging and convicting cops who behave like animals is a separate issue which needs to be seriously addressed, albeit in a manner that complies with the US Constitution.

  • Enough is enough! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 08, 2013 @07:17PM (#43121925)

    The officers should be charged with theft and assault. They should also be fired.

    • im more for striped naked and caged right out in the open for their stay in the county jail.... where all the other inmates can taunt them, but not quite touch them. maybe be generous and offer them a rope to hang themselves for disappointing society.

    • Re:Enough is enough! (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Virtucon (127420) on Friday March 08, 2013 @08:26PM (#43122577)

      Well, since the DOJ is involved, I'd make it a Federal Civil rights abuse case as well against the officers. The police in this nation have become more like paramilitary thugs in most places. Here's just a recent more pointed example. [huffingtonpost.com] They do have a difficult job to do and yes, there's nearly a 100% chance that every time they arrest somebody or go about conducting their business, they'll be recorded by a phone or some other device. They just need to get used to it and do their job and stop abusing the public!

    • by Grayhand (2610049)

      The officers should be charged with theft and assault. They should also be fired.

      How often are the police held accountable for anything they do? In LA during the Rampart scandal out of the dozens named none were fired or charged except the whistle blower. He was fired and threatened. I saw video tape of a cop in LA slamming an unconscious kid against the hood of a car. He was beaten unconscious before the camera was turned on then woke up when he was slammed against the car. No charges were filed but they did arrest the guy filming it. There have been numerous cases of unarmed people sh

    • by 1s44c (552956)

      The officers should be charged with theft and assault. They should also be fired.

      There is nobody to do the charging. Police are above the law because they lie to cover each others misdeeds.

      Police are terrified of video cameras because they can't lie their way around video evidence. If someone else recorded this whole incident there would be evidence that would hold up in court.

  • by Rogerborg (306625) on Friday March 08, 2013 @07:19PM (#43121945) Homepage

    The brief explicitly says "the First Amendment right to record police officers performing public duties extends to both the public and members of the media, and the Court should not make a distinction between the publicâ(TM)s and the mediaâ(TM)s rights to record here".

    This is all very strange. Hang on, is it Opposite Day?

    • by Rogerborg (306625)
      Followup note to myself: be sure to cite this sudden passion for exercising First Amendment rights on public streets the next time police force protesters into "Free Speech Zone" cages.
    • by jamesh (87723)

      The brief explicitly says "the First Amendment right to record police officers performing public duties extends to both the public and members of the media, and the Court should not make a distinction between the publicâ(TM)s and the mediaâ(TM)s rights to record here".

      This is all very strange. Hang on, is it Opposite Day?

      It's NOT opposite day.

  • by ChrisMaple (607946) on Friday March 08, 2013 @07:35PM (#43122119)
    Malouf should be in prison for a number of reasons including armed robbery and battery.
  • They want to support the "journalists" other wise it would mean "everyone" this way they can come back and arrest/prosecute non journalists.
    Maybe someone should start a society of citizen journalists and let anyone join so everyone can be a journalist.

    • by DragonWriter (970822) on Friday March 08, 2013 @08:02PM (#43122375)

      They want to support the "journalists" other wise it would mean "everyone" this way they can come back and arrest/prosecute non journalists.

      This argument becomes harder to maintain when you read the actual government brief [archive.org], and realize that while Ars Technica (and, following them, the Slashdot summary) use language that makes it seem like a government defense of special privileges for journalists, the actual brief takes the exact opposite position, arguing "that both the First and Fourth Amendments protect an individual who peacefully photographs police activity on a public street" and "the First Amendment right to record police officers performing public duties extends to both the public and members of the media, and the Court should not make a distinction between the public’s and the media’s rights to record here."

  • by fermion (181285) on Friday March 08, 2013 @07:39PM (#43122169) Homepage Journal
    How dare he give the populous the right to monitor the police state.
  • Because if we decide we don't support you, our drones leave no evidence but a vapor trail.
  • Is this 2 good rulings out of the Obama administration in a single day? Is it April Fools' Day already?
  • by Fned (43219) on Friday March 08, 2013 @08:46PM (#43122717) Journal

    ... that until I read the summary, I actually wasn't sure if the headline meant the Obama administration was on the side of the journalist, or was on the side of arresting journalists who record cops...

    • Also can we stop saying Obama Administration? Is the US gubermint. When we are talking about Obama let's bring these issues back into context but when we are talking about the DoJ, calling it Obama Administration is just insidious bickering.

  • Taking a person's property without justification and under color of authority is a serious crime.
    • by Fjandr (66656)

      The DA won't press charges because then the police unions will make any investigation the DA is involved in "not work out," assuming the unlikely event that the DA is willing to charge any police officer with a crime at a time when the charges are otherwise avoidable.

    • by Arker (91948)

      Even better question, there was at least one cop on the scene witnessing the assault, why did he not intervene to protect the citizen and arrest the miscreant?

      DAs will not prosecute dirty cops because the department as a whole would then get them back by sabotaging other case - which proves the department as a whole is corrupt. This is not an exception situation, unfortunately, it is the norm. This is the same reason that the other copy on the scene would not dare to do his job, even if he wanted to he wou

  • I thought it was funny when I read it but damned if somebody out there isn't playing Jumanji!

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