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With the spread of phone cameras and pocket videorecorders, citizens around the United States have taken to recording the conduct of police. Often the conduct seems innocuous enough. But sometimes, the act of recording itself seems to send police off the deep end. ABC News’s Ray Sanchez now reports on a growing trend: police prosecuting citizens for taping them.
That Anthony Graber broke the law in early March is indisputable. He raced his Honda motorcycle down Interstate 95 in Maryland at 80 mph, popping a wheelie, roaring past cars and swerving across traffic lanes. Anthony Graber was arrested for posting a video of his traffic stop on YouTube. But it wasn’t his daredevil stunt that has the 25-year-old staff sergeant for the Maryland Air National Guard facing the possibility of 16 years in prison. For that, he was issued a speeding ticket. It was the video that Graber posted on YouTube one week later — taken with his helmet camera — of a plainclothes state trooper cutting him off and drawing a gun during the traffic stop near Baltimore.
In early April, state police officers raided Graber’s parents’ home in Abingdon, Md. They confiscated his camera, computers and external hard drives. Graber was indicted for allegedly violating state wiretap laws by recording the trooper without his consent.
Here’s Graber’s YouTube of his encounter with the Maryland policeman.
Of course the anti-wiretapping statute that the Maryland state police cite is designed to protect private persons from having their phone conversations monitored without their consent (you know, the sort of thing that the folks at Fort Meade now do routinely). The idea that it would protect a public official in the course of the performance of his duties in a public place would probably come as a shock to the legislators who authored this measure. The way the prosecutors have construed the statute, shooting ordinary news footage is turned into a criminal act.
This is an extreme example of the arrogance of power, in which a Maryland cop exercised bad judgment, was embarrassed when he was publicly exposed, and got his colleagues and prosecutors to exercise still worse judgment.
As Aristotle teaches us, in a democracy the people are entitled to throw light on the dealings of public officials to keep them honest, whereas the private dealings of the people are to be sheltered from unreasonable intrusion. In a tyranny, the officials of the government are enshrouded in secrecy but constantly invade the privacy of the common citizens. Which model does this bring the people of Maryland closer to?
More from Scott Horton:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
On a Friday evening in January, a thousand people at the annual California Native Plant Society conference in San Jose settled down to a banquet and a keynote speech delivered by an environmental historian named Jared Farmer. His chosen topic was the eucalyptus tree and its role in California’s ecology and history. The address did not go well. Eucalyptus is not a native plant but a Victorian import from Australia. In the eyes of those gathered at the San Jose DoubleTree, it qualified as “invasive,” “exotic,” “alien” — all dirty words to this crowd, who were therefore convinced that the tree was dangerously combustible, unfriendly to birds, and excessively greedy in competing for water with honest native species.
In his speech, Farmer dutifully highlighted these ugly attributes, but also quoted a few more positive remarks made by others over the years. This was a reckless move. A reference to the tree as “indigenously Californian” elicited an abusive roar, as did an observation that without the aromatic import, the state would be like a “home without its mother.” Thereafter, the mild-mannered speaker was continually interrupted by boos, groans, and exasperated gasps. Only when he mentioned the longhorn beetle, a species imported (illegally) from Australia during the 1990s with the specific aim of killing the eucalyptus, did he earn a resounding cheer.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A tourism company in Australia announced a service that will allow users to take the “world’s biggest selfies,” and a Texas man accidentally killed himself while trying to pose for a selfie with a handgun.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”