I think its time to start a #FreeCarlosMiller hashtag.
For those of you who don't know Carlos, he's a journalist-turned-blogger who is constantly working on freedom of the press and his Photography Is Not A Crime! website, PINAC for short.
Carlos recently got a summons to appear in Massachusetts criminal court, as reported by the Washington Post.
The charge against Mr. Miller -- Witness Intimidation -- is typically reserved for violent gang members like the recently convicted Whitey Bulger, whose decades long reign of terror included numerous contacts within Boston PD.
Why did Boston PD make this grave accusation against Mr. Miller -- a year-round resident of Miami, Fla.? They cited him solely for the act of publishing the work telephone number of its own Bureau of Public Information.
This serious accusation is a felony that carries with it a maximum 10-year sentence.
Mr. Miller has a history of being singled out by police for being outspoken. Miami-Dade County's Public Information Officer Nancy Perez arrested Miller during the Occupy Miami eviction and attempted to wipe out his recordings. That incident resulted in a finding of not guilty after a one-day trial.
The current, bizarre situation came about as Carlos was reporting on the Taylor Hardy incident regarding a PINAC citizen journalist who recorded a conversation with Boston's Public Information Officer.
Ken White's column on the Taylor Hardy incident, "Encourage People To Contact the Boston Police Department's Bureau of Public Information? That's A Jailin'," is quoted below.
The story begins typically for Photography Is Not A Crime with a story about a Boston Police Department sergeant thuggishly assaulting a photographer recording a traffic stop.
A PINAC fan and journalism student named Taylor Hardy called the Boston PD's Bureau of Public Information on its public line to ask about the story. Hardy spoke with Angelene Richardson, a spokesperson for the Boston Police Department who provides information to the media and public.
When [Taylor] Hardy published a recording of that call, the Boston Police Department arranged for him to be charged with wiretapping. Hardy claims that he informed Richardson that he was recording the call (though he did not successfully record that part of the conversation), apparently Richardson claims that he did not.
Boston's PD should know better than to aggressively pursue citizens engaging in the recordation of public officials while acting in their working roles as officers of the state.
Only two short years ago, the ACLU and plaintiff Simon Glik won an appellate decision against the Boston PD. During the course of events, Boston PD changed its policies to conform to constitutional requirements allowing citizens to openly record public officers performing their duties.
That civil case cost taxpayers $170,000 in damages and legal fees paid to Mr. Glik. Boston PD also lost $33,000 of taxpayers' in a separate civil lawsuit on the same topic.
Now, the Boston PD has set its sights on Mr. Hardy and Mr. Miller without regard for professional practice, liability concerns or plain common sense.
Mr. Miller admits that his tactics are unorthodox, but legal under the first amendment:
"Call floods to government agencies is a common tactic we have used here on PINAC after videos have emerged showing complete abuse of authority against citizens exercising their First Amendment rights to record.
As annoying as it may be for public officials, we have a right to petition the government for redress of grievances without fear of retaliation."
US citizens have the right to record the actions of public officials, an important check on public corruption. In the event recording isn't enough, the First Amendment also allows us to publish in writing and protest verbally our concerns.
I strongly urge the Boston PD to immediately #FreeCarlosMiller.