Citizen Video Evidence Helps Two Arrested Photographers Have Their Cases Dropped

by Mike Masnick
Techdirt
May. 19, 2012

Just as we've seen the DOJ come out and scold police for taking away people's rights by arresting people photographing or videotaping police, we have two separate stories (found via PetaPixel) of photographers who were arrested by police for taking photos of public protests, both of whom had their cases dropped due to videotaped evidence from others that was posted to YouTube.

The two cases were unrelated, but have a similar fact pattern (and one not particularly different than previous stories we've seen). One case, in Seattle, involved a photographer named Joshua Garland, who started photographing recent protests in downtown Seattle, and was arrested and charged with third degree assault supposedly for "grabbing a police officer's hand and twisting his arm." Garland's lawyer, Andrea Robertson, went on YouTube and was able to piece together videos of the incident, which she then showed to prosecutors, saying that the video footage made it clear "there was absolutely no way that the officer's account of events is what actually happened." Because of that, police dropped the charges.

Meanwhile, dealing with a similar issue in New York, photographer Alexander Arbuckle actually went to trial, where, once again someone else's YouTube footage helped exonerate him (and show that the police appeared to lie). In this case, he was charged with "disorderly conduct" (which we see a lot in cases where police arrest photographers for photographing or videotaping them. The police officer claimed, under oath in court, that Arbuckle was in the street and blocking traffic, leading to the arrest.

Thankfully (or, if you're the police, unfortunately), there was a lot of evidence contradicting that statement. This included Arbuckle's own photos, which were taken from the sidewalk, and (more importantly) a Ustream video from a guy named Tim Pool "showed that not only was Arbuckle on the sidewalk, so were all the other protestors." As the Village Voice notes, "the only thing blocking traffic on 13th Street that night was the police themselves." Here's the video, with the key section being from 31:50 until about 35:00.



Video streaming by Ustream

As Petapixel points out, this certainly suggests that the police lied under oath.

Oh, and a bit of irony: Arbuckle was at that protest to try to document the cops' side of the story, saying that he felt the media had been unfair in covering the police, portraying them as aggressors, when he didn't believe that was true. Yeah.

Either way, this highlights a couple of related points:

  • Police across the country continue to arrest photographers on completely bogus charges -- despite courts (and the Justice Department) making it clear that this is legal activity. In at least some cases, it appears that they are then willing to lie about it in court.
  • Similarly, this demonstrates the importance of being able to photograph and film police while on duty, to provide evidence when there is wrongdoing. That the "wrongdoing" involved incorrectly arresting other photographers only serves to make this point even stronger.
  • It's really amazing to me how frequently we see stories like this. It's good that these two cases both got dropped, though crazy that either one existed in the first place, let alone that one of them went all the way to court.







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