Reporter’s Committee for Freedom of the Press’ Piece on Ademo’s Conviction

Thanks to Nicole Lozare of RCFP for this report:

A New Hampshire activist was found guilty on Monday in connection with recording telephone conversations with public officials without their consent and sentenced to 90 days in jail. A state legislator present in court said the “travesty” fueled him to further push for legislation to change the state’s law requiring all-party consent in recordings.

The jury deliberated for about 50 minutes before finding Adam Mueller — the founder of CopBlock.org, a website that monitors alleged abuses by police across the country — guilty of three counts of felony wiretapping, according to prosecutor Michael Valentine.

On top of the 90-day sentence, Hillsborough County Superior Court Judge Kenneth Brown also handed down a suspended sentence of one to three years, which states that the activist, to avoid serving that jail time, cannot have any new felony or misdemeanor arrests or serious motor vehicle violations for five years. As part of his sentence, Mueller also cannot contact the two school officials he recorded as well as the police captain on non-police related issues.

Mueller, who represented himself, admitted in court to recording the three officials and posting the recordings on CopBlock.org last fall. The 30-year-old called the three officials for comment after an incident at Manchester West High School, in which a school resource officer allegedly used excessive force on a 17-year-old student. The police department later determined that the officer did not use excessive force.

“I was stunned at the inappropriate use of state power in a case where there was no victim,” said state Rep. Mark Warden who attended Mueller’s one-day trial.
Warden is scheduled to testify before a house subcommittee on Wednesday about the wiretapping and eavesdropping law, which was previously challenged in two different bills but failed to pass when legislators could not agree on the language. A new bill to remove the all-party consent requirement is expected to go before the house when it reconvenes in January, according to Warden.
“The changes we want to see would increase accountability and transparency among public officials and government employees,” he said. “The current statutes are stacked in favor of law enforcement and against citizens.”

Mueller — who faced up to 21 years in prison for the illegal recordings — said in court that government officials should not have an expectation of privacy when they’re on the job, according to Ian Freeman, who was present at the trial and Mueller’s co-host on the radio talk show, Free Talk Live.

“That law deserves to be broken,” Freeman said in an interview. “Look at Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks — history has born heroes who did not take the law at face value.”

The Manchester, N.H., Police Department did not return a phone call seeking comment. Mueller, who goes by the name “Ademo Freeman,” could also not be reached for comment.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Eliud-Colon/509872489 Eliud Colon

    I don’t understand. I thought it was jurisprudence set down by the SCOTUS that public officials did not have an expectation of privacy. What the hell happened that the judge did not take that into account?

    • DespoticKeene

      It was a circuit court, and it doesn’t apply to phone conversations. It applies to overt video recording in public areas.

    • MaineShark

      While Glick’s case involved overt video recording, the important point is that the First Circuit quite clearly stated that the reason they were breaching qualified immunity was because it was /already/ established that public officials, in the performance of their official duties, have no expectation of privacy. Glick didn’t actually set new precedent; it merely enforced an existing precedent with a greater force against the offenders, precisely because they should have known better, since numerous cases have established the right to record public officials.

    • DespoticKeene

      You are misstating the holding in Glick. The Glick court held that “though not unqualified, a citizen’s right to film government officials, including law enforcement officials, in a public space is a basic, vital, and well-established liberty safe-guarded by the First Amendment.”

      Moreover, the Court discusses at length the fact that Glick’s camera was in plain sight and the officers acknowledged Glick was recording them. Had Glick’s camera been hidden, the court may well have ruled for the officers.

      Mueller was not recording officials in a public place; he was recording officials while the officials in their offices. Muller was not open about his recording; he did not inform the officials he was recording them, nor was there any way for the officials to determine Mueller was recording them. Finally, as you note, Glick’s holding was limited to the question of immunity from a § 1983 action and is inapposite to Mueller’s case.

    • MaineShark

      As I said, Glick itself is not relevant, so there’s no “mistake” as to the holding, because I wasn’t arguing that Glick applied.

      And, again, as I noted, the reason the First Circuit held the way it did, was because the right to record public officials was already established. They reference numerous cases in which they, other Circuits, and the Supreme Court all affirmed that right. Check the cases referenced in Glick, not Glick, itself.

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