Multimedia journalist Carlos Miller discusses his arrest and court ordeal stemming from photographing police in public, cops who use wiretap laws to arrest videographers (because of the audio capability), the use of trumped-up charges (that are dropped or greatly reduced when contested) for intimidation and why the Anthony Graber “wiretapping” case is so blatantly unjust even the MSM sides against the cops.
MP3 here. (9:06) Transcript below.
Carlos Miller runs the website Photography is Not a Crime. He is a Miami multimedia journalist with more than ten years of professional experience who has been arrested twice since 2007 for photographing police against their wishes.
Transcript – Scott Horton Interviews Carlos Miller, August 11, 2010
Scott Horton: All right, y’all, welcome back to the show. It’s Antiwar Radio, I’m Scott Horton. The first guest on the show today is Cole Miller – nope! Carlos Miller. Cole Miller is an entirely different guy. Good guy, but different. Carlos Miller is our guest. CarlosMiller.com is the website. “Photography Is Not a Crime, It’s a First Amendment Right,” reads the title up at the top. Welcome to the show, Carlos. How are you doing?
Carlos Miller: Thank you. Thank you for having me on.
Horton: So, photography’s not a crime? I could have swore it was – wait! I didn’t know it was a crime.
Miller: Well it looks like it. I mean, you read the stories on my blog, it is a crime to a lot of police officers, a lot of security guards. People are getting arrested on an almost regular basis. So the website, my intention is to educate people that it is not a crime. But we have this ongoing issue that people believe it is a crime. That’s the problem.
Horton: Well, you know, I’m kind of confused that this would really even be a controversy. I mean, obviously cops want to prosecute people for whatever they can, if they feel like it, because this is East Germany and there’s no accountability and they can do whatever they want.
However, I thought the courts had ruled forever ago, that, well, for example, it’s perfectly okay to film people in public. They can put up – anybody can put up security cameras everywhere, but not a microphone, because you have an expectation of privacy, being able to hold a private conversation on a public sidewalk, if you’re speaking low to the person standing next to you. But if you’re walking down the sidewalk, you don’t have an expectation of privacy, as far as people being able to document the fact that you were there or what you were doing.
So, how is it that the government can put cameras all over the place, gas stations can put cameras all over the place, and yet somehow we’re supposed to believe that police aren’t allowed to be photographed if they’re out in a public place?
Miller: Well, what the problem is, there’s no laws that say, “You are not allowed to photograph police.” So, if you are photographing or videotaping a police officer in public and they’re not happy with it, they’ll arrest you for disorderly conduct, disturbing the peace, interfering with the investigation, that kind of stuff. You know, they’ll come up with other charges that really have nothing to do with photography, but that in their mind can cover that. Even though if it does go to court, they get thrown out. They don’t want– I mean, there’s no way they can get a conviction out of that.
Horton: So, there are no laws on the books anywhere in the states anywhere that say you can’t take a picture of a cop. It’s always, they just twist and say, “Oh, well, whatever, you’re resisting arrest,” or whatever it is. And then, are people really going to jail for this stuff?
Miller: Well, yeah. I mean, I personally was arrested twice. I spent two nights in jail. And people go to jail all the time.
And now the other thing is, you mentioned the audio. A lot of officers are using the wiretapping charges to crack down on people who videotape them in public because the videotape records audio. And these are not private conversations that people are having, these are conversations that are happening in public.
You know, if an officer is telling– if you’re having a conversation with public officials in public, that’s generally not a private conversation, unless you’re whispering in hushed tones or something. But if an officer is ordering you to do something, that is not a private conversation.
And that’s the situation we’re having now with Anthony Graber, for example, in Maryland, where he’s facing 16 years in prison because he uploaded a video that he recorded of an officer pulling a gun on him during a traffic stop on the side of a public highway.
And, you know, we have a lot of cases like that where they’re using wiretapping charges. We had a case in Florida, a woman who was videotaping officers arresting her son, and she went to jail. Although they dropped the charges, she still spent the night in jail.
So even if they don’t get a conviction, they do end up putting you in jail, where they can screw up your life and mess up your whole night and make you spend lots of money on lawyers and just make your life very uncomfortable.
Horton: Right, well, so, a couple of things. I guess first of all, have there been any real convictions, I mean we can go back and focus on the harassment thing – they can arrest you and hold you and you know give you a real pain, but have they succeeded in really putting anybody, you know, convicting anybody and putting them in prison for something like this?
Miller: No. Not yet. And that’s why we’re all paying attention to the Anthony Graber case, because that’s the one case where it hasn’t been dropped. Normally these cases get dropped when the prosecutor sees them. You know, they either reduce the charges to some misdemeanor or they just drop them completely. Though, in this case, he’s going to trial in October, Anthony Graber is, and we’re all paying attention to that.
Although the Maryland Attorney General already released an opinion that he was against, he did not believe that videotaping police officers in public was equal to the wiretapping charge where they had an expectation of privacy – they don’t. And other State Attorneys in Maryland also agree with that. So we’ve got one guy, one State Attorney, his name is Joseph Cassilly, he’s the one that’s going full forward with this, and this is the test. He’s not going to succeed. I mean, I can tell you that right now. He’s not going to succeed, but he’s going to try it anyway. But there has been no conviction, thankfully.
Horton: Usually when it comes to freedom and real journalism, things like that, we can always find the New York Times and the Washington Post and the LA Times on the wrong side. So, like for example, when Gary Webb wrote the truth, they destroyed him, instead of, you know, verifying to the rest of society that he was in fact correct. And look at what they’re doing to Bradley Manning right now. WikiLeaks shows them up and they decide to be the arm of the state smearing the heroes instead of taking their side.
But then again, I guess there’s some times where the mainstream press – the real, you know, the Washington Post, New York Times type press – feel like even their own rights or powers are threatened and where they will, you know, somehow reluctantly find themselves on the same side of an issue as a freedom fighter like yourself. So, I wonder whether you have any help from, you know, the people at ABC and CBS and NBC and the major papers. I mean, aren’t they concerned about their right to do news stories and photojournalism?
Miller: Well, like, in this case, the Anthony Graber case, they have all come out, you know, against the prosecution. They’ve all come out in support of Anthony Graber. It took them a little while. You know, when the story first broke, the Washington Post addressed the story like, “Okay, well the police are right, you know, this guy screwed up, he deserves to be in prison.” I mean, that’s the tone they had.
And I wrote about it on my blog, and it really got a lot of readers and a lot of people. And then I wrote about it again when he spent 26 hours in jail. He turned himself in. And it took a month before the media followed up on that. But then when they followed up on it, they had a different tone and they realized, well, this is pretty messed up that this case, that this guy’s facing 16 years in prison for uploading a video of a cop, of what he did in public, you know, when there was no expectation of privacy. So the Washington Post, USA Today, NPR, ABC, MSNBC, they’ve all come out and they’ve reported on this, and they’ve taken a stand. They say, “No, this is wrong.”
Horton: Wow, so there’s actually a line that the government could cross that the mainstream media would object to in this society. We finally found where it is, their own power to take pictures of cops. Great.
Miller: Well, you know, I think – you know, I try not to be so cynical. I think they’re actually seeing it as, you know, as the right thing to do. You can’t put someone in prison for uploading a video, and that’s it. And it took them a while to realize what was going on, but, yeah. But you know and because of the Washington Post, you know, now we have a politician in New York, Ed Towns, who introduced a resolution to make these laws where you can’t have these laws. You know, make it very specific, that you are allowed to videotape police officers in public, or you’re not allowed to use the threat of…[inaudible]
Horton: Well, the music’s playing and your phone’s breaking up, so we’ll leave it there. But everybody please go check out CarlosMiller.com, Photography Is Not a Crime. Thanks very much for your time.
We’ll be back y’all, right after this.