More news agencies pick up the story

Posted on April 22nd, 2010 by bile
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  • Free Talk Live
  • NPR

Most are simply the AP writeup. I’ll update this post with more as they come in.

NY Daily News: Libertarian photographer sues Dept. of Homeland Security after arrest for filming courthouse protest

Posted on April 22nd, 2010 by bile
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An amateur photographer is suing the Department of Homeland Security, saying his arrest for filming a political protest outside a Manhattan courthouse was illegal.

Antonio Musumeci, a 29-year-old software programmer, videotaped the arrest of a Libertarian activist outside Manhattan Federal Court last year.

His lawsuit says that even though he was standing in a public plaza next to the courthouse, an inspector with the Federal Protective Service told him he was under arrest.

Musumeci was forced to sit on the sidewalk for 20 minutes, he says. His camera memory card was confiscated and he got a ticket for filming on federal property, a violation.

The ticket was later dismissed in Manhattan Federal Court, court papers say. His memory card was never returned.

Musumeci, himself a member of the Manhattan Libertarian Party, later returned to the courthouse to videotape other political protests organized by the group and made sure to stand on the public sidewalk.

Even so, he was again threatened with arrest, according to the lawsuit the New York Civil Liberties Union filed Thursday on his behalf.

“In our society, people have a clear right to use cameras in public places without being hassled and arrested by federal agents or police,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman.

“We understand the need for heightened security around federal buildings, but the government cannot arrest people for taking pictures in a public plaza.”

Calls to the Federal Protective Service and the Department of Homeland Security were not immediately returned.

Original post here.

bile v. The United States Department of Homeland Security; The Federal Protective Service; Inspector Clifford Barnes; and John Doe

Posted on April 22nd, 2010 by bile
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PDF of complaint (backup)

April 22, 2010 — The New York Civil Liberties Union today filed a lawsuit challenging a government regulation that unconstitutionally restricts photography on federal property, including public plazas and sidewalks.

The federal civil rights lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on behalf of a Libertarian activist who was unlawfully arrested by federal officers after exercising his First Amendment right to take photographs and digital videos in a public plaza outside of a federal building in lower Manhattan. The lawsuit seeks a court order barring federal officials from harassing or arresting people engaged in noncommercial photography while standing in outdoor public areas near federal buildings.

“In our society, people have a clear right to use cameras in public places without being hassled and arrested by federal agents or police,” NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said. “We understand the need for heightened security around federal buildings, but the government cannot arrest people simply for taking pictures in a public plaza.”

The complaint names the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Protective Service, Inspector Clifford Barnes of the Federal Protective Service and an unnamed federal officer as defendants.

Plaintiff Antonio Musumeci was arrested on Nov. 9, 2009 after recording with a hand-held video camera a protestor in a public plaza outside the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Federal Courthouse in Manhattan.

Musemeci, a 29-year-old resident of Edgewater, N.J. and member of the Manhattan Libertarian Party, was recording an interview in front of the courthouse steps with Julian Heicklen, a libertarian activist who was advocating for jury nullification. They were confronted by Inspector Barnes, who arrested Heicklen.

Musumeci, a software developer for an investment bank, stepped backward and recorded the arrest. Barnes told Musumeci he had violated a federal regulation governing photography and arrested him. Barnes and a second federal agent grabbed Musumeci by the arms and forced him to the pavement as they confiscated the video card from his camera. After being arrested, Musumeci was detained for about 20 minutes and issued a ticket for violating the photography regulation. That charge was later dismissed.

A week later, Musumeci was harassed and threatened with arrest after trying again to record Heicklen at the federal courthouse. Again this past Monday he was harassed by federal officers at the courthouse.

“I do not believe government agents have the legal or moral authority to stop people from filming on public property. In this case, the outcome is particularly frustrating because I was creating political content and engaging in a form of political activism,” Musumeci said. “The courthouse plaza is public property paid for by taxpayers, and the public should not be prohibited from using video cameras there.”

“Under our Constitution, the federal government has no power to bar photography on public sidewalks and in public plazas, and it is particularly troubling that Mr. Musumeci was detained while observing the arrest of a protester,” said Christopher Dunn, NYCLU associate legal director and lead counsel on the case. “Through this case, we expect to put an end to harassment of law-abiding photographers by federal officials.”

In addition to Dunn, New York University Civil Rights Clinic students Michael Schachter and David Wake are working on the case.

Read what lead to this and follow the ongoing story here.

National Guard getting in on the asset forfeiture game

Posted on November 25th, 2008 by bile
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The Colorado National Guard, for the first time ever, received an asset forfeiture sharing check this afternoon at a ceremony that took place inside the State Capitol. The check was a result of a Western Slope marijuana investigation, involving the Guard as well as a number of federal agencies. Agencies participating in the ceremony included the United States Attorney, and representatives from the Bureau of Land Management Enforcement Division, the IRS-Criminal Investigation, and the Colorado National Guard.

Major General H. Michael Edwards, the Adjutant General of Colorado, was presented a $93,701 check for the National Guard’s role in the “Topliss” marijuana investigation, which included asset forfeiture. Beth and Alfred Topliss were arrested for growing marijuana on their property in rural Mesa County. A search warrant executed on the property resulted in a bizarre stand-off, where Mr. Topliss put a gun to his head and said, “I’ll kill the hostage if you don’t back-off.” The hostage was Mr. Topliss himself. The subject was disarmed, and ultimately he and his wife were convicted on state felony charges of possession of marijuana.

Under federal law, property involved in various crimes, including drug cultivation, may be seized and forfeited. In this case, the IRS was the seizing agency, at the request of the Mesa County Drug Task Force. The United States Attorney’s Office filed a forfeiture action against the Topliss’ property in U.S. District Court in Denver. As a result of the case, a court order was issued, forfeiting $375,000, which was the property’s value. Under federal law, the funds go to agencies involved in the investigation, for programs that aid law enforcement in apprehending criminals as well as to youth drug prevention programs. The Mesa County Drug Task Force also received a check during the event for $112,441.

A new Colorado law, Colorado Revised Statutes (CRS) 16-13-601 and 28-3-1303 (2) designate the Colorado National Guard as a law enforcement agency for the limited purpose of participating in the Federal Asset Forfeiture Program. This new law allows the Guard to receive forfeiture sharing monies from cases in which they play a direct role in investigating. The statutes do not expand the law enforcement authority in relation to other types of operations.

“No one should profit from crime,” said United States Attorney Troy Eid. “Besides facing prison and fines, drug-traffickers risk forfeiting their ill-gotten gains.”

No one should profit from crime… except those in government apparently. Asset forfeiture is bad enough already… this is only going to make it worse.

And really… “ill-gotten gains?” Providing customers with products and services you don’t like are ill-gotten? Well I guess when you have the guns and the aura of legitimacy with regard to violence… I suppose it’s whatever Troy says.

War on drugs update

Posted on August 7th, 2008 by bile
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Update on Berwyn Heights Botched Raid

Things are getting worse for Prince George’s County, Md. police officials, after last week’s botched no-knock raid (previously chronicled on C@L here).

Not only did the police not have a warrant to conduct a no-knock raid, but it now appears they were well-aware that a drug ring was delivering large shipments of marijuana to innocent addressees’ homes in the D.C. suburbs. The packages would then be intercepted by other members of the ring, all without the addressees’ knowledge or involvement. Nonetheless, the cops executed their guns-ablazin’ raid on the home of Berwyn Heights mayor Cheye Calvo and his wife Trinity Tomsic, where the cops shot the couple’s black Labs and detained Calvo and his mother-in-law in handcuffs for hours.

Astoundingly, P.G. County police refuse to admit that they did anything wrong in the raid. As police chief Melvin C. High said in today’s Washington Post:

In some quarters, this has been viewed as a flawed police operation and an attack on the mayor, which it is not. This was about an address, this was about a name on a package . . . and, in fact, our people did not know that this was the home of the mayor and his family until after the fact.

I correct Chief High: When police officers execute a no-knock raid though they have no warrant or cause to do so, when they blast and shoot their way into a home without first learning who lives there, then they’ve carried out a flawed police operation. That’s the case regardless of whether Calvo and Tomsic are guilty of trafficking drugs.

In Prince George’s County, flawed law enforcement isn’t unusual. At least, in this case, the victims of the botched raid may have the social stature to fight back.

Lima, Ohio SWAT Officer Acquitted in the Killing of Tarika Wilson

A Lima, Ohio jury has acquitted police officer Joseph Chavalia of involuntary manslaughter in the death of 26-year-old Tarika Wilson. Chavalia shot and killed Wilson and wounded her infant son during a drug raid last January. Wilson was unarmed.

During the raid, one of Chavalia’s fellow officers shot and killed the two dogs owned by Wilson’s boyfriend and the target of the raid, Anthony Terry. Chavalia testified that he mistook his fellow officer’s shots at the dogs for hostile gunfire coming from the bedroom where Wilson was standing with her child. Chavalia then fired blindly into the bedroom.

The jury concluded that Chavalia reasonably feared for his life when he heard the gunshots. I guess they were then willing to overlook Chavalia’s mistaking an unarmed woman holding a baby for an armed drug dealer, and the fact that he fired blindly into a room without first identifying what he was shooting at. It’s too bad that that same sort of deference isn’t given to the people on the receiving end of these raids when they too understandably confuse the police officers who wake them from sleep and invade their homes for criminal intruders.

California Medical Marijuana Dispensary Owner Charlie Lynch Found Guilty in Grotesque Miscarriage of Justice

Charles Lynch, the owner of a medical marijuana dispensary in Morro Bay, California that was fully compliant with state laws, has been found guilty in federal court of pushing drugs. The grim details, courtesy of The Los Angeles Times:

The owner of a Morro Bay marijuana dispensary was found guilty today in federal court of five counts of distributing drugs.

Charles Lynch, the owner of the dispensary, faces a minimum of five years in prison.

His closely watched trial involved conflicting marijuana laws and went to a federal court jury Monday. Jurors were asked to determine if Lynch was guilty of violating federal drug laws.

During a week-and-a-half-long trial in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, federal prosecutors sought to depict Lynch as a common drug dealer who sold pot to teenagers and carried a backpack stuffed with cash.

Lynch was charged with distributing marijuana, conspiring to distribute marijuana and providing marijuana to people under the age of 21.

Whole news story here.

Lynch is one of the countless casualties of an idiotic and tragically long-running war on drugs. His shop scrupulously followed Golden State laws and when he opened his shop in Morro Bay, local officials attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony. And that kid he provided medical marijuana to? A high school athlete who had lost a leg to cancer and had a prescription from a Stanford-trained doctor (and in any case, Lynch only dealt with the boy’s parents). Yes, a common drug dealer.

Syracuse asks not to be responsible for officers ruining womans home

Posted on July 29th, 2008 by bile
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The city of Syracuse has asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit by a woman whose 303 Gere Ave. apartment was gassed last year during a police standoff with her neighbor.

The motion to dismiss, filed this week in U.S. District Court, responded for the first time to Eileen Malay’s allegations that police violated her constitutional rights March 17, 2007, during a 29-hour standoff with her landlord, Thach Ros, 62.

Ros, who lived in an attached house, fatally shot his son and wounded his wife before eventually killing himself.

While arguing Malay, 59, has no grounds to sue the city, the motion did not dispute Malay’s account of the gassing. She fled the apartment that day and hasn’t been back.

In the motion, the city argues police officers were confronted with a deadly situation and didn’t know whether Malay was in her apartment.

“A reasonable police officer would not believe that deploying gas to diffuse a lethal situation could (violate) Plantiff’s civil rights, particularly if they were not even aware that she was inside the apartment,” wrote Jennifer Savion, assistant corporation counsel.

Also, the city argued, police didn’t violate Malay’s constitutional right to be free of unreasonable search and seizure because of the imminent danger the gunman posed.

“There can be no doubt that there were exigent circumstances sufficient to allow police action to try and diffuse the situation,” Savion wrote. “That meant using CS gas inside the property to try to disarm Ros.”

CS gas is a type of tear gas that the U.S. military has agreed under international treaty not to use in warfare.

How does the fact that the gunman posed an “imminent danger” negate the fact that they ruined her property with a chemical that even the military has agreed not to use? They harmed this woman and she should be paid restitution. Period. If anyone other then government thugs tried to use this excuse the public would be outraged. Collateral damage is still damage and those officers are still responsible. The gang of which they are a member of and the colors they were do not put them above to fundamental societal concepts.