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News Police Watchdog activist facing 21 years for illegally taping police

  1. Aug 8, 2012 #1
    It takes alot to shock me when it comes to creeping authoritarianism in America, but this takes the cake. Ademo Freeman is an activist for Copwatch.org, a police watchdog group, as well as a member of the Free State Project.

    What the story essentially boils down to: Ademo (a blogger and syndicated radio talk show host as well as an activist) was doing a story about an incident at a Manchester, NH high school. He identified himself as being from Copblock.org, said he was doing a story, and sought comment, which the officer agreed to provide. When the story came out, Ademo included in on his blog portions of an audio transcript he had recorded of the telephone interview.

    Apparently, someone was upset, and because Ademo did not explicitly ask for permission to record the conversation, he is being charged with felony wiretapping. The relevant law contains a clause that make recording phone conversations illegal is there is "a reasonable expectation of privacy." What possible expectation of privacy is there when an on duty officer is called at the station and agrees to comment on a story? Had Ademo simply written the conversation down instead of recording it, there's nothing they could charge him with. It is clear this is an abuse of power and he is being charged because of his anti-police political activism. The trial is coming up next week. This is something one could have expected out of the old Soviet Union. Someone being arrested for publishing an interview with a public official who agreed to the interview!

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/06/adam-ademo-mueller-journa_n_1748057.html

    It is a shame this case is not getting more media attention, as it could set a terrible precedent for chilling the effects of the new media (bloggers and non-mainstream media) to hold public officials accountable.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 8, 2012
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  3. Aug 8, 2012 #2

    russ_watters

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    Re: Police Watchdog activist facing 21 years for interviewing police

    So then the title of the thread is in error, right?

    Every time I've ever called a customer service line, I get a computerized voice informing me of the fact that I'm being recorded. I've never considered this to be a frivolous notice.
     
  4. Aug 8, 2012 #3

    Evo

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    Agreeing to comment is not agreeing to be audio taped. What the guy did was illegal. It's up to the courts now. We obviously only have a very biased one sided view of the facts from a couple of blogs.
     
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2012
  5. Aug 8, 2012 #4
    Assuming the facts of the article are accurate, the legality depends on the phrase "reasonable expectation of privacy" and since the trial hasn't happened yet, i think it's too early to say that what he did was illegal.

    But for the sake of argument, let's say it is. What public interest does application of this law to this circumstance serve? Should public officials on duty being asked for comment have an expectation of privacy? It seems clear the penalty he's facing (three counts of wiretapping, each punishable by seven years) was intended to apply to people who were "wiretapping" in the more conventional sense of bugging phones and intercepting conversations. Does the punishment fit the alleged crime?
     
  6. Aug 8, 2012 #5
    I've always heard that you can record a phone call legally so long as one of the two parties to the call consents and knows it is being recorded. Likewise, I've always heard that illegal wiretapping is when two parties are being recorded without either one consenting. Of course, that's just what I've always heard, and I don't know the law for sure.
     
  7. Aug 8, 2012 #6

    russ_watters

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    Your thread, your title, your characterization. You could have said "Activist could be facing 21 years if found guilty" instead of phrasing it in such a way as to imply it was already decided. Since you intended to argue against it being already decided, it seems like flaimbaiting for you to have said it that way, then coming back to scold another for responding in-line with your characterization.
    "To this circumstance"? Oddly put, but it necessitates a response: equality of treatment under the law! You can't make exceptions just because you like the perp and dislike the victim!

    For the broader reading of that sentence, let me ask you this: what is the purpose of the law in general and why do you think that purpose shouldn't apply to cops?
    Me personally, I would want to know exactly how much I was giving to the interviewer, regardless of context. Words? Voice/inflection? Photo? If I'm going to be photographed, I might dress nicer or try to smile more. If I'm being recorded, I might use different inflection in speaking. Etc.
    Wrong question: Your previous sentence is claiming the crime doesn't fit the alleged crime. I do not consider that to be clear. Again, every time I call customer service, they tell me if/that they are recording me. "It seems clear" to me that that's exactly the situation we are seeing in this case, which means that the law was not only intended to cover eavesdropping on 3rd party conversations. I don't think they are separate crimes as you are trying to imply.
     
  8. Aug 8, 2012 #7

    russ_watters

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    There are lots of different laws (in different states) and they mostly require both parties to agree. Here's a primer, intended for educating reporters so they can avoid exactly the pickle that the subject of the thread finds himself in: http://www.rcfp.org/can-we-tape/introduction
     
  9. Aug 8, 2012 #8
    My original thread title was altered (not by me). Originally, I wrote "activist facing 21 years for interviewing police."
     
  10. Aug 8, 2012 #9

    Evo

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    Which Russ pointed out was wrong.


    https://www.physicsforums.com/showpost.php?p=4026619&postcount=2
     
  11. Aug 8, 2012 #10
    Interesting link, thanks. It actually looks to say, though, that most require only one party to agree, with the federal law and 38 states requiring just one person, and only 12 states requiring both people.

    New Hampshire law says both parties; however, it also says that if one party is aware then it's only a misdemeanor, not a felony, with a max punishment of one year.

    http://www.rcfp.org/can-we-tape/new-hampshire
     
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2012
  12. Aug 8, 2012 #11

    russ_watters

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    I pointed out in my first post that that your statement of the fact of the crime was wrong. Someone (Evo?) corrected the erroneous fact (illegal taping, not simple interviewing) but didn't change your assertive tone, since the fact of the occurrence of the taping isn't in question. That has no impact in my criticism of your response to Evo, since the edit neither added nor removed your assertive tone.

    This is all you here.
     
  13. Aug 8, 2012 #12

    russ_watters

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    You're right, I misread the summary page.
     
  14. Aug 8, 2012 #13
    The purpose of wiretapping laws is to prevent someone from eavesdropping in on a conversation they would not normally be privy to. In the context of a phone call, the purpose would be a violation of the presumed confidentiality between the two parties.

    What you are referring to after "me personally" is a separate issue. Although use of likeness is often forbidden, audio recordings by the press are generally fair game. The use of a telephone is the key here that allows the wiretapping charge.
     
  15. Aug 8, 2012 #14

    Evo

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    So, what exactly is your point against the fact that what he did is illegal? It seems you agree it was illegal, but don't want the law to apply to him.
     
  16. Aug 8, 2012 #15
    To add to Evo's comment, it seems obvious now, thanks to russ_watters, that what he did was illegal by New Hampshire law; however, it is apparently only worth a misdemeanor charge with a max penalty of one year in prison and a $1000 fine per count (assuming each recording was one day or less in duration). Therefore, it would seem that the 21 year potential jail sentence will not fly in court, and I highly doubt he gets a prison sentence for this--at least not the max, but if he does, it's his fault despite his arguably noble intentions.
     
  17. Aug 9, 2012 #16

    russ_watters

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    Galteeth, recording a call you are privy to is not quite the same as recording one you are not privy to. So you're really arguing that he didn't violate the law (as Evo said), you're arguing against the law itself. You're using one or both of the following arguments (I'm not clear):

    1. The law shouldn't exist. You don't seem to acknowledge/believe that the law as written has any useful reson for existing. Thus, what you seem to be saying is that no one should ever have to tell another person they are recording a phone call they are both involved in (or videotaping them in person?).

    2. The law is fine for private citizens but should not protect police/public servants. Thus the law would need to be re-written to adjust the domain of applicability.


    I think both of these are non-starters. I don't think (not 100% certain) that a law can be challenged based on usefulness, only based on Constitutionality. So you're focusing on the wrong person here: it isn't about the cop, it is about the reporter. The problem for the reporter is that he would have to prove that forcing him to tell the cop he's recording the conversation violates his (the reporter's) rights. Just proving the cop doesn't deserve a heads-up that he's being recorded isn't enough -- it isn't even relevant. This law may exist for no other reason than that it is a nice thing to do to tell someone you are recording them. That's a perfectly acceptable reason for having it and just because you don't agree that that's a good reason doesn't make it unConstitutional.

    Also, please note that the way the legal process works, when you start off in a court proceeding, you go right for the jugular, throwing everything you have at your opponent right off the bat. Always. Every time. If you've never seen a minor criminal citation or lawsuit filing, you'd probably be pretty shocked at how nasty they are. It doesn't even need to be true. Yes, it is mean. Why do this? To cover every possibility right off the bat. You won't necessarily know right away what will stick when you get to court, so you get every possibility you can think of put into the court case so you have it all in case you need it, then you sort it out once you get to court. If nothing else, it is a great negotiating tactic because it leaves a lot of room to negotiate. So don't get hung up in the potential severity: I agree with xodin that it is highly unlikely the reporter will see anything anywhere close to that.
     
  18. Aug 9, 2012 #17
    Now the question is if it would be morally right for him to get the max penalty for this crime. He did commit the crime but should he get punished harshly for it? I don't think so because his actions in the short term posed no harm to the police man nor compromised anything. If the police man had a problem with him being recorded he could of asked the reporter to remove the video before going to court about it. I can't see how his crime justifies us spending money to keep him in prison and even sent him to prison in the first place.
     
  19. Aug 10, 2012 #18
    I just find it odd that the maximum penalty for such a relatively harmless crime is 21 years. I'm pretty sure I could rape a woman and get off with less.
     
  20. Aug 10, 2012 #19
    You can get less than 21 years for killing somebody. Apparently recording someone's words is sometimes worse than killing them.
     
  21. Aug 23, 2012 #20
    Never record anybody's words without their permission. Shame! And never argue about the LOW. It's created to serve us. ;)
     
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