Boston PD Drops Ridiculous Felony Charges Against Carlos Miller And Taylor Hardy

from the the-power-of-public-shaming dept

As we recently covered, First Amendment activist/photographer Carlos Miller was facing felony charges for witness intimidation after posting the public phone number of the Boston Police Department’s public relations officer on his website and encouraging readers to call and try to get wiretapping charges dropped against Taylor Hard, another PINAC photographer.

Apparently, the BPD didn’t care for the deluge of calls and Detective Moore took it upon himself to make contacting the department’s public relations number a crime. Miller responded by posting all of this publicly and hired a Boston-area lawyer to represent him at the hearing.

Miller finally has some good news to report.

The Boston Police Department agreed to withdraw the felony complaints against myself and PINAC associate Taylor Hardy on the condition that readers stop flooding their phone lines with calls demanding that they withdraw the complaints.

As if I would have any say in that.

But to paraphrase my attorney: Please. Stop. Calling. They get the message.

Here’s his lawyer’s statement:

“I am happy we were able to resolve this to Carlos’ and Taylor’s satisfaction, with criminal charge applications dropped by BPD, so that Carlos and Taylor can continue their work fighting for lawfulness, openness and transparency in police work across the country. Going forward they will not let up on their vigorous defense of citizen freedom. They understand that the law in Massachusetts is that they have to tell people if they are recording a conversation, and they have assured BPD that they will always announce that they are recording when asking for recorded comments, which has always been their practice.”

The Boston PD also had a few other requests. It also asked that Taylor Hardy remove his video of his conversation with the public relations officer (something he had already done) as well as asking that anyone recording phone calls with Boston public officials inform them that they are recording, something PINAC has always done.

Between the heat generated by the story’s spread through the media and Miller’s retention of one of the best lawyers in Boston, the ridiculous “witness intimidation” charges never even made it to the hearing.

Only hours after we had retained Duncan, he received a call from a police attorney asking to mediate, which is why Thursday’s hearing was postponed.

And as the attorneys mediated, the call floods continued, and the media exposure increased.

And there was pretty much nothing left for them to do but to lay their fiddle down because they knew they had been beat.

The BPD doesn’t come out of this looking good. But it also doesn’t come out this looking chastened either. All appearances indicate Detective Moore would have followed through with his witness intimidation charges and was only forced to relent in the face of mounting criticism. This suggests that whatever lessons were learned here will swiftly be forgotten when a citizen without such robust backing attempts to record police officers and other public officials. Officers might be more hesitant to simply shut down photographers knowing the info might make its way back to PINAC and places beyond, but the number of concessions the PD asked for before dropping the charges shows it’s still trying to hold onto as much power as possible.

The letter from the Boston PD’s legal counsel is even more troubling in its implication.

“As we discussed, I have notified the court that the probable cause hearing regarding the application for criminal complaints against Mr. Miller and Mr. Hardy is no longer necessary as the parties have reached a mutually agreeable resolution.”

This letter gives no indication that the BPD felt that the witness intimidation charges were bogus. All this says is that the BPD will drop bogus charges when faced with large amounts of public criticism and a solid lawyer. There’s nothing anywhere that suggests Det. Moore is rolling back his claims that contacting the public relations numbers isn’t a crime. Instead, it looks as though Moore will still be able to selectively decide which phone calls are fine and which are “witness intimidation” and that the BPD will attempt to prosecute those not fortunate enough to generate media heat or secure a good lawyer.

PINAC’s win does create some breathing room for citizen photographers, but the only thing that will be holding BPD officers back from bringing wiretapping charges will be the underlying threat of public humiliation, rather than legal precedents like the 2011 Glik decision.

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Comments on “Boston PD Drops Ridiculous Felony Charges Against Carlos Miller And Taylor Hardy”

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Anonymous Coward says:

New calling procedure might be in order.

1) Call….
2) I’m notifying that I’m going to be recording this conversation.
3) Await Confirmation / Refusal
3a) if Refusal. Hange up. Try again later ?
3b) If Confirmation, hit Record
4) I’m repeating my notification on the Recording that this call is going to be recorded.
5) resume conversation with Proof of notification that both parties know the call is being recorded.

Skeptical Cynic (profile) says:

Look not defending the cops in this but...

I can understand why cops are leery of being recorded. Video can be edited to show a different story than what really happened. Video can be taken out of context and it will show a different story. And things that occur off screen could alter opinions about what really happened.

I also know that cops don’t want to be monitored because sometimes they forget they are there to serve us not rule over us.

It goes both ways says:

Re: Look not defending the cops in this but...

Which is why the cops should have camera’s as well. If the video’s of the cop and perp don’t line up then it is pretty easy to see which has been edited.

Right now many officers have car camera’s and camera’s malfunction and the video’s go missing from time to time. More camera’s just tend to give a better view of the situation (from various angles).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Look not defending the cops in this but...

Hmmmm – cops do not like being recorded ……

So, I suppose they are really upset about all the cams put in place by the city but they are just too busy busting perps to actually complain about them.

Certainly you do not expect anyone to believe that video from city cams is somehow protected from alteration.

PopeRatzo (profile) says:


The Boston PD is claiming that a conversation with a governmental PUBLIC RELATIONS OFFICER is private. How can any public official claim that any conversation they have with a citizen regarding PUBLIC business is private? We have paid for that conversation with our taxes, and the person who is having the conversation with this PUBLIC official wants the conversation to be PUBLIC.

Our government has really lost its mind. They really believe that they’re supposed to be in charge. And this in Boston, where some of the guys who wrote the Constitution actually walked the streets. They must be turning over in their graves.

It is time for civil disobedience.

Bergman (profile) says:

Did anyone else notice that BPD committed crimes worth 15+ years in prison in all this?

So basically, BPD got so pissy over the fact that someone noticed that had trumped up false charges to send a reporter to prison for five years that they trumped up charges to send that reporter’s friend to prison for ten years.

And throughout all that, none of them noticed that BPD’s own actions met the legal definition of extortion under the general laws of Massachusetts, which has a section that applies SPECIFICALLY to police, violation of which is punishable by FIFTEEN years in prison?

Anonymous Coward says:

Bilski and their actions

It is a First Amendment right “to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”. The phone calls described above fit under the umbrella of this Constitutional right.

According to the US Supreme Court, in “Bilski”, violation of Constitutional rights gives the violated party cause to sue the persons responsible directly; the doctrine of Sovereign Immunity does NOT protect them.

TooDumbToBeAfraid says:

Bilski? BPD

Where in Biliski does the court affirm the right to bring suit? All I’m reading is an interpretation of what constitutes a patentable business method.

That said, in my experience Boston PD rarely concern themselves with the constitution or pesky little issue like due process. It’s not like they run drugs or wait.. they did do that. Or illegally track the movements of thousands of people downtown, oh yeah they did that too. No we’re lucky, here in the ole Beantown, the police are here to be protected and served.

But, even if the BPD could be counted on to solve crime rather than commit it, It’s not as if the U.S.D.A. is peach either. Ms. Ortiz has a history of prosecutorial overreach but, that only applies to citizens not, public servants. The State DA, well if she ain’t a day late and a dollar short, then we’re not talking about the same Guber candidato. Finally at the local level, Mr. Connolly, more of the same.

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