Posts Tagged 'Maryland'

ACLU May Sue MTA For Baltimore Incident

Photo by Christopher Fussell

UPDATE: MTA Chief Ralign T. Wells has come out against agency employees who have sought to prohibit photography, telling the Baltimore Sun, “We don’t have a policy restricting photography. The actions of some of these officers are not reflective of the agency stance.” He said he will work to settle with the ACLU before any lawsuit can be filed.

The Maryland ACLU may sue on behalf of Christopher Fussell, a train enthusiast, who was taking photos of a Baltimore train station and told to stop this past March. Fussell takes photos of trains and railroad stations all over the US — he takes about 15,000 to 20,000 a year — but it was the Charm City that gave him trouble. He was taking photos of Baltimore’s Cultural Center station when an employee ordered him to stop and threatened to call police.

As The Baltimore Sun reports:

The [ACLU] warned that unless the agency meets a series of conditions by Sept. 1, it will take the MTA to court — where it expects to win.

Civil libertarians and rights advocates say police have been given no new powers to curb photography since 9/11. In many cases, they say, police are making up laws and rules on the spot and  issuing orders they have no right to give.

Interestingly, the ACLU worked to settle a 2006 incident amicably, where one of their own staffers was told to stop taking photos by the MTA, but they say they’re not going that route this time. Staff Attorney David Rocah says they’ve been trying that for five years and it hasn’t brought about change.

Often it takes a big lawsuit to get people’s attention.

NPR: “This Is The Police: Put Down Your Camera”

NPR’s “Morning Edition” did a report on photographers’ rights this morning, featuring specifically the cases of teenager Khaliah Fitchette in Newark, NJ, and motorcycling wiretapper Anthony Gruber in Maryland. You can listen to it here.

As former police officer and current Boston University Professor Tom Nolan says:

“The police will get the message when municipal governments and police departments have got to write out substantial settlement checks,” he says. “Standing by itself, that video camera in the hands of some teenager is not going to constitute sufficient grounds for a lawful arrest.”

MD Mall Security Assaults Man For iPhone Video

Arundel Mills Mall in Hanover, Md., has a lot to offer —  a couple of chain and outlet stores, some high-calorie food options, and security guards who will assault you if you record them with your phone.

That’s what happened to Thomas Tang on April 8 when he and his girlfriend entered the mall by trying two different entrances that aren’t permitted after a certain hour, even though they were still open. Tang and his girlfriend, Erin Fabian, argued with security for not allowing them into the mall to get to the movie theater, which was still open. More security was called, and the pair were banned from the mall for their behavior in challenging the policy.

On his way out of the mall, Tang pulled out his iPhone to record the guards’ behavior and told them he would put it on YouTube. That really set them off, and they chased him into the parking lot. Four guards wrestled him to the ground and took his iPhone and deleted the video. He and Fabian were arrested by local police — he for trespassing, she for assault since the police claim she hit a guard in the chin.

Arundel Mills, which is owned by Simon Property Group in Indianapolis, is of course private property and they have the right to request people leave the premises and ban them too, if they so desire. However, security staff have no authority to assault you or seize your property, regardless of your behavior. They actually have the exact same amount of authority as you or me.

The authorities have told Tang there is nothing he can do; they say he was on private property so he has no recourse. Not true exactly.

This is what we recommended to him (and anyone who is being railroaded by individuals or companies abusing their authority): He should press charges against them for theft, unlawful detainment, assault and battery, false imprisonment and destruction of property; get recovery software to retrieve the iPhone video and put it on YouTube; get the mall’s security footage; file a complaint with the state agency that is the watchdog for security guard companies; contact the Better Business Bureau; contact local politicians, like city council members and the DA’s office; send the story to local news media so people are aware that this mall employs people who break the law. (This local site has already picked it up.)

Judge Rules for Watchmen: Graber Cleared of Wiretapping Charges

It’s been the case that has served as the flash point of the photographers’ rights issue lately–and now justice, and common sense, has prevailed. Judge Emory A. Pitt Jr., the Harford County Circuit Court judge presiding over Maryland motorcyclist Anthony Graber’s felony wiretapping case, ruled today that police do not have an expectation of privacy when in public while performing their duties.

“Those of us who are public officials and are entrusted with the power of the state are ultimately accountable to the public. When we exercise that power in public fora, we should not expect our actions to be shielded from public observation. ‘Sed quis custodiet ipsos cutodes’ (“Who watches the watchmen?”).”

Judge Pitt also ruled against Hartford County State’s Attorney Joseph I. Cassilly’s (the prosecutor behind this entire fiasco) claim that Graber should be charged with possessing a “device primarily useful for the purpose of the surreptitious interception of oral communications” because of the camera he used to record the encounter between himself and Joseph Uhler—the Maryland State Trooper who pulled his gun and ordered Graber to “get off the motorcycle” before identifying himself.

The judge disagreed with the prosecutor that the helmet cam was illegal, and concluded the state’s argument would render illegal “almost every cell phone, Blackberry, and every similar device, not to mention dictation equipment and other types of recording devices.”

And as was reported by The Washington Examiner:

“This ruling upholds the fundamental right to hold police accountable to the public and constitutional principles they serve,” said attorney David Rocah of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, who represented Graber along with a team of private attorneys who took the case pro bono.

Now who wants to see Cassilly and Uhler held financially liable for pursuing these frivolous charges against Graber, and then thrown in jail for 16 years (which is the amount time Graber was facing) for wasting taxpayers’ money?  And let’s not forget about the anonymous judge who signed the search warrant that allowed the cops to illegally enter Graber’s home and steal his private property.

Joseph I. Cassilly
Circuit Court, 1st Floor
20 W. Courtland Street
Bel Air, Maryland 21014

Article from The Washington Post and The Washington Examiner

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