Citizen Video Evidence Helps Two Arrested Photographers Have Their Cases Dropped

from the filming-police-is-a-right dept

Just as we’ve seen the DOJ come out and scold police for taking away people’s rights by arresting people photographing or videotaping police, we have two separate stories (found via PetaPixel) of photographers who were arrested by police for taking photos of public protests, both of whom had their cases dropped due to videotaped evidence from others that was posted to YouTube.

The two cases were unrelated, but have a similar fact pattern (and one not particularly different than previous stories we’ve seen). One case, in Seattle, involved a photographer named Joshua Garland, who started photographing recent protests in downtown Seattle, and was arrested and charged with third degree assault supposedly for “grabbing a police officer’s hand and twisting his arm.” Garland’s lawyer, Andrea Robertson, went on YouTube and was able to piece together videos of the incident, which she then showed to prosecutors, saying that the video footage made it clear “there was absolutely no way that the officer’s account of events is what actually happened.” Because of that, police dropped the charges.

Meanwhile, dealing with a similar issue in New York, photographer Alexander Arbuckle actually went to trial, where, once again someone else’s YouTube footage helped exonerate him (and show that the police appeared to lie). In this case, he was charged with “disorderly conduct” (which we see a lot in cases where police arrest photographers for photographing or videotaping them. The police officer claimed, under oath in court, that Arbuckle was in the street and blocking traffic, leading to the arrest.

Thankfully (or, if you’re the police, unfortunately), there was a lot of evidence contradicting that statement. This included Arbuckle’s own photos, which were taken from the sidewalk, and (more importantly) a Ustream video from a guy named Tim Pool “showed that not only was Arbuckle on the sidewalk, so were all the other protestors.” As the Village Voice notes, “the only thing blocking traffic on 13th Street that night was the police themselves.” Here’s the video, with the key section being from 31:50 until about 35:00.

As Petapixel points out, this certainly suggests that the police lied under oath.

Oh, and a bit of irony: Arbuckle was at that protest to try to document the cops’ side of the story, saying that he felt the media had been unfair in covering the police, portraying them as aggressors, when he didn’t believe that was true. Yeah.

Either way, this highlights a couple of related points:

  1. Police across the country continue to arrest photographers on completely bogus charges — despite courts (and the Justice Department) making it clear that this is legal activity. In at least some cases, it appears that they are then willing to lie about it in court.
  2. Similarly, this demonstrates the importance of being able to photograph and film police while on duty, to provide evidence when there is wrongdoing. That the “wrongdoing” involved incorrectly arresting other photographers only serves to make this point even stronger.

It’s really amazing to me how frequently we see stories like this. It’s good that these two cases both got dropped, though crazy that either one existed in the first place, let alone that one of them went all the way to court.

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Comments on “Citizen Video Evidence Helps Two Arrested Photographers Have Their Cases Dropped”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

The real fallout here could be huge. Any case that the officers in question have testified in are now questionable. They perjured themselves once they may do it again and have done it in the past.

If I was a trial lawyer any testimony by these sworn police officers should be immediately challenged and used to challenge any decsions based on said testimonies. How many other cases will fall apart when this string is pulled?

The DA should charge these officiers just out of spite for the cases they will have ruined.

Danny (profile) says:

Re: Re: exactly = where are the countersuits?

At some point in the future when one of these officers is testifying at an unrelated case, the defense attorney will show this to the jury to demonstrate that the officer is willing to lie under oath, and therefore should not be believed in the case at hand.

Someone else will get off, but if it happens often enough perhaps the police departments will self police a bit better.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 exactly = where are the countersuits?

If I were a public defender, I’d put these guys in a file somewhere and pull them out in every case I handle that even touches them. It’s a potentially huge time-saver, given the number of cases every defender handles monthly. They could milk this for years, and good on ’em for trying.

Amber (profile) says:

The citizens of America need to start going out and filming the police en masse as a form of protest against corruption in police departments. We need to hold our police forces accountable for their actions, at least while in public. The police are corrupt in every precinct across the entire nation, and it’s time to expose them. Is there an app that uploads photos and streams video to a cloud account as they are shot? Then even if there is not a convenient bystander videotaping, or if the police delete the evidence from the device, it can still be saved.

Cowardly Anonymous says:

Re: Re: Re:

Wrong. Once they get a significant violent response, they’ll have all the excuse they need with most of the populous to crack down all the way. They will win escalation. Fortunately, they can’t easily make the first move.

The populace is finally starting to wake up. Keep the reins tight on the vigilantes and rebellious and we might be able to actually reverse the descent into a police state.

However, all it takes is a few riots forcefully suppressed and everything blows up. People get scared and start acting irrationally. Some will fight, but most will roll over. That’s one way this song and dance works (think Germany). The other is that someone hijacks control of the revolution (think USSR).

Either way, violence has a much higher probability of leading to an oppressive (far worse than Today) regime than other methods do.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

A cop found guilty of perjury should be fired. No benefits, no layoff package, just ‘pack your stuff, you no longer work here’.

Every time a police officer pulls crap like this it lessens the trust people have for the police, so it amazes me that the police don’t handle matters like this themselves, if for no other reason than protecting their own image.

Rapnel (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I’m not sure we’re meant to “trust” it (at least when you’re in front of it). We are meant to “fear” it. The role of the intimidator requires constant vigilance and exercise.

The more/faster we can a) isolate and identify abuse of power b) realize real repercussions for the abusers c) understand that authorities are citizens first and enforcers second (at all times) then the closer we can get to real justice at the point of entry.

If you lie under oath you disrespect and undermine the rule of law. If you lie as an employee of the Justice Department it should be grounds for immediate dismissal at a minimum. Aggravated perjury meant to result in and achieve penalties for an otherwise innocent defendant should be treated with a sizable fine, termination and jail time.

Jeremy Lyman (profile) says:

And then...?

‘the video footage made it clear “there was absolutely no way that the officer’s account of events is what actually happened.” Because of that, police dropped the charges.’

And then…?

‘The police officer claimed, under oath in court, that Arbuckle was in the street and blocking traffic, leading to the arrest. Thankfully… there was a lot of evidence contradicting that statement.’

And then…?

Whatever happened to Police Officers being held to a higher standard? Being trusted to know and enforce the laws does not make you above them. If anything it should compound their infractions by also being breaches of trust. I know it’s a tough job, but I’m not willing to sacrifice my rights to make the system seem more effective.

“And then…?” Indeed.

fogbugzd (profile) says:

For years the courts have treated police officers as “trained observers” and have often given their testimony the same or even greater weight than physical evidence. In fact large parts of our criminal justice system have relied primarily on the assumption that police officers give true and accurate testimony. These cases could seriously chip away at those assumptions, particularly for a lot of “minor” street crime.

Even if an officer gets off the hook for lying under oath, that officer’s testimony would be largely worthless in court after the incident if the defendant has a competent attorney. Unfortunately, the assumption of competent council is also invalid in a lot of street crime cases.

Josh in CharlotteNC (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Memory is extremely flexible, even for events long past. Your brain filters out things it doesn’t think are important. It fills in gaps based on other events and can completely manufacture new things.

There’s the famous count something while a guy in a gorilla suit walks by experiment. Half or more of people miss it. I think every jury should need to watch that.

There are studies where a group of people are asked to observe an event (sometimes a simulated crime), and then asked to give witness statements. The witnesses are gathered together to go over what happened. Adding one or two people to insert things which never happened causes others to “remember” those things and to be completely sure they did happen.

PatM (profile) says:

This is nothing new, police lie every day here in Canada too, so much so that the AG has decided to waste more tax payers money investigating it–police-who-lie-attorney-general-orders-probe-of-police-deception

Lazy cops think it’s better to write some person up on a phoney ticket so they can sit in court and get paid.

Anonymous Coward says:

any lawsuits for false arrest?

why is it always stated that the police ‘appeared to be lying’? either they were lying or they were telling the truth. in all the instances i have seen here or elsewhere on the net, it is clear that the police were lying. that being the case, why not actually say so? or will that lead to further false charges?

chelleliberty (profile) says:

“I was under the impression that lying under oath was a crime.”

Depends who you are. Oh you’re not organized crime ‘law enforcement’? Yep. Crime. Definitely. Felony even. We take perjury very seriously in this country.

Oh, my mistake, you are? Well, I’m sure you are just stating things to the best of your ability to recall, and c’mon it was on a totally insignificant charge, that couldn’t really affect someone that much, just a ‘violation’, not even a misdemeanor… Couldn’t cost a person more than, say, $250. And almost no one ever gets the fifteen days in jail. And certainly you wouldn’t push for that, cause you’re a good man/woman.

We’ll just mark this down as not even really a lie, more of a ‘mistake’. Go home now while we lock this guy… oh… let this guy go since he didn’t actually do anything.

“They continue to perform their duties? That doesn’t seem right…”

Well, I don’t think they mostly perform their duties, but I see what you’re getting at. But believe me, the mobsters officers do stuff worse than that and continue to supposedly perform duties.

Welcome to America!

Anonymous Coward says:

These two cases never made it to court.
The cops in both situations did lie though in their arrest statements.
Both of these photographers should sue and the cops should be disciplined.
Once an officer is caught in a lie his word is no longer his bond, and he is of no use to the public safety of the community.
Police officers must be held to the highest of standards.

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