from the land-of-the-almost-free dept.
Photography Is Not A Crime (PINAC) correspondent Michale Hoffman has been found guilty of trespassing on public property. He was arrested in August 2014 for holding up signs saying "Police State," "Liars Investigating Liars," "F??K THE TSA" and "IRS = Terrorist" on a public road leading to the Jacksonville International Airport (JAX). Hoffman was barred from invoking a First Amendment defense at his trial. "While we are disappointed in the jury's verdict we look forward to appealing the judge's rulings on the First Amendment issues that the jury was not allowed to hear or consider," said attorney Eric Friday. Furthermore:
Duval County Judge Brent Shore also refused to answer the jury's question about whether or not holding up signs on public property is illegal. It's not, of course, but prosecutors convinced the jury that all the cops had to do was order him to leave, even if he was not breaking any law, to give them the right to arrest him for trespassing. "The state convinced the jury that I didn't have to break any law to be trespassed," Hoffman said.
Judge Brent Shore created arbitrary "credentialed media" rules that prevented PINAC from filming the court case, but allowed photographers from The Florida Times-Union and News4Jax to cover the trial at the last moment.
In an order issued after Michale Hoffman recorded himself hurling insults at journalists and cops [length: 5:36] on the court steps, Chief Fourth Circuit Judge Mark Mahon threatened to arrest anyone who recorded the Duval County Courthouse, even from across the street, for contempt of court. Additionally, Judge Mahon's order banned calling into question the integrity of the court or its judges, or calling them "corrupt." In response, another PINAC correspondent demonstrated what would happen if you tried to film the courthouse [length: 4:18] (the same user also engaged in the same conduct as Hoffman [length: 10:22] in front of JAX, and was not arrested). PINAC also filed a lawsuit in federal court against Mahon on Tuesday.
[T]he proper procedure for challenging a court's decision is to file an appeal with the appropriate appellate court. Shouting out on the Courthouse grounds that the Court and judges are "corrupt" during business hours while people are entering the Courthouse is entirely inappropriate and disruptive and is analogous to falsely shouting "fire" in a crowded theater...
3. Demonstrations or dissemination of materials that degrade or call into question the integrity of the Court or any of its judges (e.g., claiming the Courts, Court personnel or judges are "corrupt," biased, dishonest, partial, or prejudiced), thereby tending to influence individuals appearing before the Courts, including jurors, witnesses, and litigants, shall be prohibited on the Duval County Courthouse grounds....
The Boston Globe has a story out about a ruling in US District court this week that narrows the scope of a 50-year old Massachusetts law that restricted recording of police and other government officials.
The law, and similar ones still in effect in 10 other states, was implemented long before the advent of now ubiquitous cell phones. It and similar laws criminalized recordings made of police and public officials in public even in performance of their duties, as felonies and have caught large numbers of individuals, activists, and journalists doing the same thing they always do in their net. (Most states are covered already by rulings which find such recording legal on first amendment grounds.)
But a ruling issued Monday by US District Court Judge Patti Saris found, "On the core constitutional issue, the Court holds that secret audio recording of government officials, including law enforcement officials, performing their duties in public is protected by the First Amendment, subject only to reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions." And so, she added, the law "is unconstitutional in those circumstances."
The attorney general's office is reviewing the decision so challenge or appeal may still be forthcoming. However, as the Globe notes
this is one law whose time has come and gone. Challenges to the law go back to at least 2001, when a spirited dissent in a case then before the Supreme Judicial Court insisted that the "legislative intent" was to regulate government surveillance, not that of private citizens trying to monitor police conduct in a public place.
This case was clearly a win for greater transparency — and that's all to the good. It should be allowed to stand.
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Maybe now we can, just a little bit more, in Massachusetts.
Good one Skippy.