Charges against Florida man for videotaping a traffic stop finally dropped
By Madison Ruppert
Editor of End the Lie
Ah, finally, a bit of much needed rationality and justice has graced the ongoing war on Americans who exercise their right to film police carrying out their public duties in public places.
Thankfully, not all of these cases end unjustly as evidenced by the move by an Illinois Judge to rule their eavesdropping law unconstitutional and now the dropping of the felony charge filed in January against a North Port, Florida man who filmed police from his home, which we originally covered earlier this month.
According to the Herald-Tribune, the State Attorney recently announced that they will not be prosecuting 57-year-old Steve Horrigan who was charged with felony eavesdropping and misdemeanor obstruction for using his smartphone to tape North Port police making an arrest across the road from his house.
Horrigan’s case (covered here by Carlos Miller) is somewhat similar to the case of a woman named Emily Good who was arrested for filming police from her home in Rochester, New York, after which her supporters were harassed for trying to support her cause.
Horrigan, who is an amateur videographer and a computer technician, was forced to spend the night in jail and if prosecutors went forward with charges he could have been facing up to five years in prison if convicted.
Assistant State Attorney Eric Werbeck said, “the State would be unable to prove the officer enjoyed an expectation of privacy with the defendant,” adding that the state probably could not “prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the officer’s duties were obstructed by the defendant’s conduct.”
Indeed, the entire notion of a public official having a reasonable expectation of privacy in a public place while conducting their public duties is absurd to the point of hilarity.
Horrigan was not surprised by the State Attorney’s decision, saying that they “couldn’t have come to any other conclusion because there just isn’t any case law on the other side.”
The North Port Police Department did not respond to the Herald-Tribune in an attempt to get a comment on the case, but the video seemed to speak for itself in the eyes of the State Attorney’s Office.
The video was held as evidence by police for a whopping six weeks, which is similar to other cases where police hold on to evidence for extended periods of time or even destroy potential evidence before it can be examined.
To make the now non-existent case against Horrigan even weaker, Sarasota prosecutors pointed out that “unknown to the officers at the time of the stop, no audio regarding the traffic stop, be it conversation between officers and those detained or conversations between fellow officers, is audible on the recording seized from the defendant.”
Indeed, the entire basis of the eavesdropping charge required that Horrigan had recorded private police interviews or other conversations which they expected to be private.
Since Horrigan captured no audio of their conversation whatsoever, the case had absolutely no merit whatsoever.
To make matters even more ridiculous, prosecutors pointed out that at one point one of the officers could be heard telling Horrigan, “you can take video or pictures if you really feel necessary.”
It also appears that the police actually lied on the North Port Police Department’s probable cause affidavit.
Contrary to the claims made on their affidavit, the video showed that Horrigan was, in fact, “at least 15-30 feet from the back of the patrol vehicles.”
Furthermore, Horrigan did not “communicate with the subjects being arrested, incite other civilians” or verbally threaten officers in any way.
To make matters even worse for now shattered credibility of the NPPD, they claimed that they told Horrigan to stop filming “approximately 10-15 times” while the video reportedly shows police asking just once.
This is one in a string of victories for those who honor the civil liberties of Americans, especially when it comes to holding police accountable for their on-duty activities.
In addition to the Illinois decision, recently Boston, Massachusetts paid out $170,000 to attorney Simon Glik who was prosecuted under wiretapping laws for recording police arresting an individual with his cell phone.
It appears that there is an increasingly intense backlash against this particular assault on our freedoms and I hope this trend continues to spread across the nation.
Police need to be held accountable for their actions, as it is the only thing keeping them in line nowadays, especially in an age where police can literally get away with murder.
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