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posted by janrinok on Friday July 10 2015, @10:07AM   Printer-friendly
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.

Eugene Volokh of the Washington Post's Volokh Conspiracy legal blog called Mahon's order unconstitutional. The order is also discussed at the Popehat legal blog. From the order:

[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....

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  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Spamalope on Friday July 10 2015, @03:44PM

    by Spamalope (5233) on Friday July 10 2015, @03:44PM (#207493) Homepage

    Legally, main stream media have no greater rights than anyone with a cell phone camera.

    The courts may address the number of media people to address space constraints, and the manner the recordings are made to prevent disruption in the courtroom. (i.e. control over-crowding if the trial is a media circus, and block overly noisy cameras or disruptive placement/operation)

    I've read about that courts media rules. The original credentialing system seemed designed to restrict press access to mainstream media. Such rules have been struck down in the past. In this case, each time Pinac met the requirements they were changed. The bar was moved several times, to include impermissible restrictions. (you must have credentials to record, you must prove you've recorded court proceedings for the past 6 months to get the credentials you require in advance to be permitted to record... Pinac had been recording in other districts so they actually met that one - and surprise - new requirements added)

    The friendly media were allowed to record *without* credentials while the reporters with an interest in the case from Pinac were barred. That's judicial over-reach meant to chill speech.

            Pinac appears to be an advocacy group started by an independent professional photographer (stringer?) who was prosecuted for photography despite Florida's right to record laws specifically protecting his activity. The group takes an interest open records laws and right to record/petition incidents, especially if there is a assault on a photographer, false charges files against one, or attempts to destroy recordings.

            The protestor on trial appears to be a paranoid crazy person (or he's been acting to bait authorities). In either case, he was behaving in a constitutionally protected way, on public land. The charges don't have legal merit beyond 'because I said so, I don't have to follow the law, I have the gavel'. Sadly, that has been enough so far - which may be exactly the point of this protest.

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