Artist Facing 15 Years In Jail For The Crime Of Videotaping His Own Arrest

from the this-is-a-problem dept

Yesterday, we wrote about a woman who was facing 15 years in jail for using her cameraphone to videotape part of her effort to get Internal Affairs of the Chicago Police Department to investigate an officer, whom she claims sexually assaulted her. Apparently, this sort of situation is not unique in Illinois. Another story this week tells about an artist who set out to do a reasonable bit of civil disobedience: to protest a Chicago ordinance concerning where and when he could sell artwork on the street. He intended to get arrested for that misdemeanor by selling his art. As part of this, he had a First Amendment lawyer with him… and a video crew. Well, he did get arrested, but not for the misdemeanor of selling artwork in the wrong spot, but for the same felony of eavesdropping and is facing the same 15 years in prison as the woman we spoke about yesterday. Apparently, a big part of the problem is Illinois’ Eavesdropping Act, which seems to create this ridiculous situation. Of course, the fact that prosecutors are actually moving forward with charges on such things is equally ridiculous. It’s a good reminder of a reason to stay away from Chicago.

Filed Under: , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Artist Facing 15 Years In Jail For The Crime Of Videotaping His Own Arrest”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Dark Helmet (profile) says:


“Can it really be considered eavesdropping when you have a film crew?”

Under stupid IL law it sure can. They’re twisting this to suggest that any LEO that doesn’t expressly grant permission to be taped has an expectation of privacy. Of a public enforcement officer. In public.

This state sucks. Our governors are crazy corrupt and our lead mayoral candidate isn’t allowed on the ballot….

Justin M. Kolenc says:

Re: Eavesdropping


A police officer is a public servant. Public servants have no expectation of privacy, no automatic protection from the public. The bottom line is that, just as was the case for me in the military, once you put on the uniform of a public servant, you are subject to such scrutiny. This is why newspapers will print “Officer Such and Such” rather than “an unnamed officer.” The police officer has no standing.

The Infamous Joe (profile) says:


Just to be fair, 12 states (IIRC) have laws that require all parties to give consent to be recorded. Of those 12, two of them (Illinois and Massachusetts, aka yours and mine) have no exception to this rule when there is no expectation of privacy, aka, in public.

One of them, MA I think, actually had it in the law and took it out.

So, rest assured, your state isn’t alone in sucking… and yours, at least, has better pizza.

This is a good place to start if you want to know more.

David Liu (profile) says:

From the article:
“The Chicago Police, he said, have been expanding their recordings of ordinary civilians, with blue-light cameras, cameras in patrol cars, and the like. The justification for these recordings is that what happens in public is public, and there should be no expectation of privacy.”

If that’s true, there’s a massive double standard going on here. That just really pisses me off.

Derek Bredensteiner (profile) says:


Wow, that article paints an even more disturbing picture of the situation. I honestly can’t understand why anyone would support or be in favor of a police officer or judge acting in such a childish and counterproductive manner.

?Let me just say that as a matter of policy I think it?s ludicrous that people would be arrested for recording a police officer,? adds Volokh.

Pretty much sums it up.

The only encouraging thing about all this is that at least some of these situations are getting a little bit of national attention. Maybe a positive trend is possible.

The Infamous Joe (profile) says:

Grain of salt.

As part of this, he had a First Amendment lawyer with him… and a video crew.

The article implies that these actions were taken the first and second attempt at getting arrested, but both times he was let off with a warning. This was his third attempt. I know I read it somewhere that he had a small recording device in his jacket– not a film crew on hand– and that’s what got him in trouble. Of course, I can’t for the life of me find where I read that, so take it with a grain of salt.

The Infamous Joe (profile) says:


No, this is the best quote from the article I linked:

I ask Pasco if he believes someone like Michael Allison should go to prison, potentially for the rest of his life. “I don’t know anything about that case,” Pasco replies, “but generally it sounds like a sensible law and a sensible punishment. Police officers don?t check their civil rights at the station house door.”

“That just doesn?t sound right,” Allison says. “My civil rights are supposed to protect me from the government. When a police officer is on the job, he?s part of the government. So [Pasco] is trying to say the government has civil rights to protect it from the people? That doesn?t make any sense to me.”

spartacus_videographer says:

appropriate response

This demands a call to action. All owners of video-capable cameras in Chicago should take every opportunity to get in the face of police and public officials, cameras visible and running, and demand to be arrested and charged under the same laws. The courts will be clogged, juries will have to be empaneled, and this stupid, corrosive and corrupt law will have to be stricken, either by act of legislature or by precedent of jurisprudence.

I am calling for direct illegal action on the part of all citizens subject to laws which prohibit video or audio recording of police or other public officials in the performance of their duties in public or publicly-owned places. If the enforcers of the law cannot be subject to the same laws as we who pay them, then it is our duty to effect change by whatever means are available to us.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:


“Don’t you think it might have something to do with him not actually being a citizen? Or are you suggesting the law be broken for him?”

I’m suggesting that it’s insane to tell a person who has been paying Chicago/IL taxes for the last two years, who HAS a home in Chicago, and who only was out of town so much because the freakin’ PotUSA asked him to perform a public service that he can’t run for elected office in his home city.

BTW, only 1 court out of 3 so far has said he can’t be on the ballot. Other courts agreed with me, and the fight isn’t yet over.

Christ. And I wouldn’t even VOTE for the guy….

John Doe says:


Why does it matter who asked him to move or why they asked him to move? So if his mother asked him to move out of state, would that be a valid excuse?

He moved to DC with his family for 2 years and rented out his home. His private home became a rental home. For tax or any other purposes, he would not be considered a resident and neither would you.

So no, I am not a fan of breaking the law for him or anyone else.

Anonymous Coward says:


It seems it is getting only a little bit of national attention.

And a lot of folks are going to hear about this artist and not care because (in their opinion) he’s just a crazy old hippie.

Tiawanda Moore is more sympathetic being an alleged victim of sexual harassment, but she is a former stripper and she sounds black (so a number of people will think she’s lying – not saying that’s justified. I think it’s what some people will think.)

15 years is ridiculous though especially considering that in both of these cases there is no victim.

Whether or not these people are technically guilty under this law if I were on the jury I would exercise jury nullification.

I predict acquittal for Moore (I believe the NYT mentioned an exception if you had “reasonable suspicion” that a crime was about to be committed by the cops) and that the artist will be found guilty but receive no time.

Anonymous Coward says:


Residency requirements for holding public office assure at least the possibility of familiarity of the candidates with current issues of public debate and concern, and no matter why a person has established residency elsewhere, be it military or other public service or simple choice, it is entirely appropriate for any person without CURRENT residency to be barred from running for office until residency is re-established.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:


“I did not realize Rahm was a member of the military. Nice attempt at a strawman though.”

Well, he may not have a commission but the only reason he was in DC was because he was serving the Executive branch of the govt. And it’s interesting you should use the word strawman so quickly after comparing being called upon by the highest office in the land….to being called upon by his mother.

Who you crappin’?

John Doe says:


No strawmen in my argument, just pointing out the fact that because he was called out of state by some party or another doesn’t matter. If the law wanted to allow for that, it would have. It doesn’t so too late. Change the law for next time, but this time it is too late.

But hey, maybe you don’t like for the Government to go by the law. I guess you are in the right place for that then.

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Eavesdropping

But hey, maybe you don’t like for the Government to go by the law. I guess you are in the right place for that then.

Wow, the straw is flying.

So now everyone here that reads Techdirt agrees that the Government doesn’t need to follow the law? Or does that mean that since DH is from Illinois, he is in the right place to believe that the Government doesn’t need to follow the law?

If it is the former…I’d like to see your evidence, since there are a lot of us here and I doubt you’ll be able to prove that all of us believe the same thing.

fthepigs says:

Don't fight the power

Do as Ice Cube says in a Public Enemy song: Don’t fight the power, just shoot the mother fucker. Illinois is a shithole state with a history of corruption. It’s no surprise that the pigs there got the laws changed to make it illegal to videotape them, this is the first part of a long path in taking away rights of US citizens. This sounds like something out of North Korea, not Illinois. the pigs should be ashamed.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Weird confluence of issues in this thread...

Rahm Emanuel was shaking hands at my el stop this evening. I shook his hand and said hello. Pics or it didn’t happen?

That’s the funny part. We were surrounded by men with expensive tv or video cameras. They were in plain clothes and showed no visible credentials, yet they taped me w/o my permission. I should have whipped out the iPad and pulled up this article….

Thomas (profile) says:

Not surprising..

Massachusetts does the same thing. On one hand the police SAY want you to help you and then they turn around and screw you. And they still don’t understand why people do not trust the police and are not willing to help them.

If Rodney King had been beaten in Chicago there never would have been any prosecution of the cops since the people videotaping the action would have been themselves prosecuted and the DA would have been required to toss the evidence out since it was obtained illegally.

It just goes to show that state governments are far more concerned with their image than actually protecting citizens.

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Not surprising..

There is going to keep being serious push back against restrictions on guns as long as the US allows police and the military to be so powerful and aggressive.

Yes, but to add further fire to this argument, Chicago is very much anti-gun (as is California, Washington DC, and Massachusetts.) Not that there is a correlation between corrupt politicians and gun control, but it seems a little suspicious.

Jose_X (profile) says:

No due process possible

Oops, I forgot that taping is allowed if you are being arrested (that is an exception clause in that law). Maybe you have to be arrested for something else, but then that is rather silly.

Also, I wonder if you had the cameras on but was not actually recording and they arrested you. How could they do so reasonably? Having the camera out cocked and ready is not illegal and would be done for efficiency’s sake as well as a deterrent to crime. To arrest on suspicion of filming officers undermines that entire reasonable defensive scenario (to a stupid law).

Thomas (profile) says:

Re: No due process possible

Police officers can videotape you via their dash cams and cameras in police stations. That is well accepted by the courts. However, in the case of the dash cam, the police can always manage to “lose” the recording if it shows them doing something they shouldn’t be doing. The courts know this and don’t really care because they want to be on the side of the cops. But if YOU try to record the police doing something improper (at least in Mass) you can be prosecuted. This way if you happen to record the police going dragging someone out of a car and beating him with clubs or whatever then YOU cam be arrested and your tape won’t be accepted in court since it was obtained illegally and the police will not be prosecuted since there is no legal video evidence showing it.

And the police still wonder why we don’t trust them.

Anonymous Coward says:


Man facing 75 years in prison for audio recording public servants in Illinois. Perhaps some people could come help us in Illinois. Planning demonstration 2-17-2011 @9am Crawford County Courthouse, Robinson Illinois. Defendant has court at 2:15 that same day. This case is not getting near the media attention it needs. I have spoke with the Defendant on the phone and he would appreciate any support he can get.

Here are a couple of links about the case:

If interested or anyone you know that might be, please post a quick reply back. Thanks

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...