Ruling follows national trend underscoring fact it is not illegal to film the police
Paul Joseph Watson
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Michael Allison, the 41-year old Illinois mechanic who faced life in jail for recording police officers, has had all charges against him dropped after a state judge ruled that his First Amendment rights had been violated, following a trend of similar rulings across the country that underscore the fact that it is not illegal to film cops.
Allison was the victim of a vendetta that was being pursued by the state despite the fact that every other case brought against citizens for filming cops had collapsed. A judge slapped Allison with five separate 15-year sentences for “eavesdropping,” four of which involved Allison filming police officers during a dispute over cars he was working on at his home in Bridgeport, and another related to Allison bringing a tape recorder to trial after he was told there would be no official transcript of proceedings.
“A statute intended to prevent unwarranted intrusions into a citizen’s privacy cannot be used as a shield for public officials who cannot assert a comparable right of privacy in their public duties,” wrote Circuit Court Judge David Frankland. “Such action impedes the free flow of information concerning public officials and violates the First Amendment right to gather such information.”
The “eavesdropping” charge was also dismissed by Frankland as completely inappropriate.
“Judge Frankland ruled that Allison had a First Amendment right to record the police officers and court employees. And while a ban on recording devices in the courtroom might be justified, he said, the eavesdropping charge was inappropriate,” reports Reason. “As applied in this case, Frankland said, the eavesdropping law “includes conduct that is unrelated to the statute’s purpose and is not rationally related to the evil the legislation sought to prohibit. For example, a defendant recording his case in a courtroom has nothing to do with an intrusion into a citizen’s privacy but with distraction.”
Frankland’s decision followed a First Circuit Court of Appeals ruling which found that, “The filming of government officials engaged in their duties in a public place, including police officers performing their responsibilities, fits comfortably within these principles [of protected First Amendment activity].”
Indeed, every similar case nationwide has concluded in all charges being dropped against the defendent. It is not illegal to film police officers in public. And yet cops up and down the country are still using intimidation tactics against citizens by threatening them with arrest for using a video camera.
Despite the clear legal precedent of such cases being thrown out, the state was determined to incarcerate Allison and throw away the key, even sending an assistant from the Attorney General’s Office to speak against him during a hearing.
Perhaps there needs to be a national activist day solely devoted to filming police officers in public to get the message across that documenting the performance of public servants is a completely natural and lawful expression of the First Amendment.
Let’s call it “Film a Cop Day” – a reminder that the First Amendment is more powerful than the threats and intimidation that victims of a law being enforced that isn’t even on the books have had to endure repeatedly for years on end.
Paul Joseph Watson is the editor and writer for Prison Planet.com. He is the author of Order Out Of Chaos. Watson is also a regular fill-in host for The Alex Jones Show.
This article was posted: Wednesday, September 21, 2011 at 12:18 pm