Illinois Man Faces 75 Years In Prison For Recording Police
UPDATE 9/5: Glenn Reynolds has a column today at the Washington Examiner in which he explains that citizens have the right to record the police, citing Glik v. Boston about which I previously blogged, and also recounting a previous Chicago case in which a jury easily acquitted a women charged with “wiretapping” for recording the police. Reynolds adds: “In an era when government feels free to record citizens whenever they’re out in public, government officials need to recognize that this recording business works both ways. Want a surveillance society? Be prepared to live in it.”
42 year-old Michael Allison faces a possible 75 years in prison. He’s been charged with five counts of eavesdropping, a class one felony in Illinois, for the images in the video above that he made of police arrests and beatings of citizens. Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit has the right take on this: To even consider such charges is to prove oneself unfit for public office of any kind.
See my post below, A Victory for Freedom in Boston, on the recent First Circuit Federal Court of Appeals case that upheld the Constitutional right to make the sort of recording Mr. Allison made here and which got him involved in a criminal charge. The 1st Circuit judges said,
The First Amendment issue here is, as the parties frame it, fairly narrow: is there a constitutionally protected right to videotape police carrying out their duties in public? Basic First Amendment principles, along with case law from this and other circuits, answer that question unambiguously in the affirmative. It is firmly established that the First Amendment’s aegis extends further than the text’s proscription on laws “abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press,” and encompasses a range of conduct related to the gathering and dissemination of information. As the Supreme Court has observed, “the First Amendment goes beyond protection of the press and the self-expression of individuals to prohibit government from limiting the stock of information from which members of the public may draw.” …
Gathering information about government officials in a form that can readily be disseminated to others serves a cardinal First Amendment interest in protecting and promoting “the free discussion of governmental affairs.”
The court is clear in its ruling that the first amendment right applies not only to the credentialed press but to all citizens.
The post immediately below where a NM state trooper has been caught inflagrante delicto shows the importance of the right of citizens with their ubiquitous video surveillance cameras and personal video cameras to record the police and it also shows graphically the reason the police, politicians and bureaucrats hate it. They will try to stop it by making these sorts of ridiculous charges until they are sued for enough money to make them stop. Federal legislation is needed here. 1983 claims help but more is needed.
I hope and expect that all charges against Mr. Allison will eventually be dropped, but not before his life is made a living hell. That’s the point isn’t it? Then I hope he finds a good lawyer familiar with civil rights suits under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
I’ll never understand why these public officials make these dumb charges against one little guy to ruin his life for a while. The video above is going to be viewed hundreds of thousands of times on the internet, and they have received mountains of negative publicity from local news outlets as well. If they just wanted to minimize the bad publicity it would seem the best course of action would be to ignore guys like Michael Allison. Their egos won’t let them do that, apparently.
Maybe they believe the in terrorum effect of the news coverage will stop others from making videos of them. If so, it shows their contempt for the people they are sworn to serve and protect.
I found the video above at boingboing.