Manchester Police Face $1 Million Suit After Arresting Man for Recording

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Free State Project early mover and attorney Brandon Ross is once again involved in a “wiretapping” case where Manchester police arrested a man for recording them in his own home.  The man is now suing for more than $1 million in damages, as Photography is Not a Crime’s Andrew Quemere reports:

The city of Manchester, New Hampshire and two of its police officers are facing a lawsuit for more than a million dollars after arresting a man for audio-recording the officers as they searched his home.

 

Alfredo Valentin, 43, was arrested on March 3 after police conducted a no-knock raid on his home in search of drugs that belonged to a tenant and was later fired from his job because of the arrest, according to the lawsuit.

 

Valentin was never charged with any drugs crimes and, according to the lawsuit, was not aware that there were any drugs in his home.

 

Police were investigating Christopher Chapman, whom they suspected of selling heroin, and were able to arrest him outside of Hillsborough County Superior Court.

 

Despite already having the man in custody, the department sent a SWAT team to break into Valentin’s home, “firing incendiary devices through the property’s windows, kicking in the doors, and entering the property SWAT-style with semi-automatic weapons—damaging property, terrifying the two women who were still in the house, and creating an unjustifiable risk of accidental death or injury,” according to the lawsuit (see full article for pictures of the damage).

 

The police department’s website claims that its SWAT team is only used in special circumstances like “the execution of high risk narcotics search warrants,” but the department’s press release about the raid on Valentin’s home make no reference to weapons or other factors that would have justified the violent and destructive tactics.

 

Valentin had surveillance cameras installed in his home that likely captured video of the raid, but they were seized by police.

 

Valentin was at work at the time of the raid, but went home after receiving a call from his neighbor, who said his dog had gotten loose.

 

After seeing vehicles parked in his driveway and evidence of forced entry to his home, Valentin confronted the intruders. One of them told Valentin he was a police officer, but refused to identify himself.

 

Valentin asked to speak to a supervisor and was approached by Sergeant Christopher Sanders, who said he had a search warrant but refused to show it. Sanders told Valentin to come back in an hour.

 

Valentin returned an hour later and used his smartphone to audio record. He was approached by Sanders and Sergeant Brian LeVeille, who eventually showed him the warrant but then arrested him for wiretapping after he started walking away. Both sergeants are named in the lawsuit as defendants.

 

A third man was later arrested by the Massachusetts State Police in Lawrence, Massachusetts as part of the drug investigation.
Brandon Ross, Valentin’s attorney, said that while he is cognizant of the heroin problem in New England, it doesn’t justify police mistreating members of the public.

 

“You have this war on drugs that’s just going and going and failing completely. And what you do about that is a policy question that I can’t answer, but peoples’ basic liberties and constitutional rights should not be casualties in that war,” he said.
Ross said he convinced the police to drop the wiretapping case, but prosecutors later decided to bring it before a grand jury and were able to obtain an indictment.

 

“My confidence in him not being convicted is a hundred percent,” Ross said. “They did this to stall everything.”
Ross said the police department still hasn’t returned Valentin’s phone and has refused to provide him with the police report and any other evidence, telling him that doing so would interfere with their case against Chapman.

 

“They will not give anything up yet,” Ross said. “That’s what makes me so focused on the case is because they’re just not cooperating in a very unusual way.”

 

Ross said that Valentin’s arrest cost him his job as an accounts payable manager at Longchamps Electric, Inc., where he had worked for 11 years. Ross also said Valentin’s termination meant he lost his health insurance, leaving him unable to pay for medication to treat his chronic asthma and diabetes.

 

Ross said part of the reason Valentin was fired was a press release issued by the police department which he said insinuated Valentin was involved in a drug ring. The press release, itself titled “Multi-agency investigation leads to 3 arrests,” led to news stories with headlines like “300 grams of heroin seized, 3 people arrested during search.”

 

“There were worse ones, but I asked the publishers to remove them with threats of litigation. A television news station actually reported, in print and on air, that Valentin was arrested with the heroin and money in his possession. Not surprisingly, they blamed the press release as being misleading. I have copies of those articles, but I can’t bring publicity to them by sharing them,” Ross said.

 

Ross previously helped overturn the felony wiretapping conviction of Cop Block founder Ademo Freeman, who surreptitiously recorded phone calls with Manchester police and public school officials about a video of a police officer attacking a student. Freeman later plead guilty to misdemeanor wiretapping after the charges were re-filed.

 

“Standing up for the little guy is something I enjoy doing,” Ross said.

 

Ross said he’d ultimately like to see the state’s wiretapping statute changed to a one-party consent law, which would make police and prosecutors less likely to abuse it.

 

It would probably also help if the mainstream media did a better job of standing up for the First Amendment instead of uncritically regurgitating police press releases. A number of news outlets including the Union Leader, New Hampshire’s largest newspaper, reprinted the the police department’s false claim that it’s illegal to record police without their consent without challenging it.

 

Multiple court cases have already established that recording the police is protected by the First Amendment in New Hampshire. The 2011 Glik decision, which was related to Massachusetts which is in the same federal jurisdiction as New Hampshire, found that recording police and other government officials is a clearly established right. The 2014 Gericke decision, which involved the Weare, New Hampshire Police Department, also found that recording the police is protected.

 

The Union Leader previously covered both the Glik and Gericke decisions, so they have no excuse for misleading their readers with their terrible reporting on Valentin’s arrest.

 

The Manchester Police Department and Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas did not respond to requests for comment.

 

You can call the Manchester Police Department at (603) 668-8711 or send them a message here. The department is also on Twitter.

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13 Comments

  1. This is a very amusing article. When recording someone in New Hampshire, the law says you have to get permission from the other party you intend to record. Ademo did this and was convicted of three counts of felony wiretapping. Of course one count was thrown out. An activist who thinks they deserve one million dollars really has no sense of reality.

  2. Jumping Jacks Actually, no, it does not.  The law says that you have to inform them; if they choose to continue talking after being informed, then they have consented to being recorded.
    Regardless for that nonsense, the Federal courts have said that recording police in the performance of their official duties is a Constitutionally-protected right, so long as it is not done in a manner which directly interferes with their performance of those duties (eg, you can’t jam a microphone in an officer’s face while he’s working, but you can stand at a reasonable distance and record him).  The article actually references the decision (Glick, from 2011).  Since reading isn’t your strong suit, I’ll summarize: Glick recorded officers arresting someone, and was in turn arrested for recording them.  The Court issued a ruling on the matter, stating that recording officers is and always has been a protected right, and that they’ve already ruled on the matter, so the police were not only in the wrong, but were knowingly in the wrong, and therefore were not entitled to immunity from civil prosecution.  Glick continued his wrongful arrest suit and got quite a but of money.

    Following the Glick decision, the NH Attorney General’s office sent letters to every single police department in NH, reminding them that recording officers is legal, and that they have no excuses for pulling a similar stunt.

    Since they’ve been so repeatedly-informed of the law, they are obviously breaking it with intentional malice, and the damages are, therefore, quite a bit higher (triple the injured party’s actual damages).  Given the harm that Valentin suffered, his “plain” damages will be quite high, and then add that multiplier because of the willful malice with which that harm was carried-out – I expect that Ross can easily justify the $1M number in that manner, because he’s known for being very conservative when calculating damages.

  3. Continuing to enforce victimless acts as “crimes” will not further peace or individual freedom and will always bring unintended consequences.

    So, will the ignorant of the law cops pay any damages out of their own pockets or will more sheep need to be shorn to pay for the um… “indiscretion”?

  4. WEEDA CLAUS  Well, the article says that the officers are being sued individually, in addition to the suit against the city.  Given that Glick’s case already proved that immunity does not apply in these situations, the officers are personally liable.  Hopefully, the court will do the right thing, and take any and all assets they have to pay as much of the damages as can be paid out of their assets, before hooking the City with the rest.
    Or they could hook the City with it to make sure that the victim gets promptly paid, and then order the officers to liquidate their assets and repay the city, and continue making payments to the City until the debt is paid off.

  5. FlintNH Jumping Jacks No, he can’t. He had someone in his house who was wanted for drugs. Since that person lived at that address, SWAT came in for a search. The whining about losing a job only shows the limited reality this guy lives in. He got what he asked for. He won’t get a million dollars, I doubt the case will even go to court but will be thrown out.  He appears to be another slimy activist who thinks he is entitled to more than he really is.

    You said, “Following the Glick decision, the NH Attorney General’s office sent letters to every single police department in NH, reminding them that recording officers is legal, and that they have no excuses for pulling a similar stunt”.  Prove it. I say you are lying again. 

    If you look at a lot of activist videos who claim Glick is on their side, they lose in court. Get educated.

  6. Jumping Jacks All felony counts were thrown out.

  7. Jumping Jacks  Why aren’t you using your real name Runningwolfkenpo? Too much baggage? Ashamed?

  8. bdross Jumping Jacks 

    Jumping Jacks is RunningWolfKenpo. 

    RunningWolfKenpo is well known for not stating facts, grammar errors, and bad spelling.

  9. Robert Berman Jumping Jacks
    You’re right! Jacks’s repeated error in using “ect” instead of “etc” is a mistake I’ve seen RWK make frequently. And the nurse practitioner claim? Also made by RWK. Spot on! Good catch Robert.

  10. Jumping Jacks FlintNH
    “If you look at a lot of activist videos who claim Glick is on their side, they lose in court.”
    I did what you asked Jacks! I looked for some activists who’d beaten wiretapping charges using the Glik v Cunniffe decision as a defense. Look at all the links I found!
    http://www.masslive.com/news/index.ssf/2013/06/town_of_palmer_pays_new_hampsh.html
    http://rt.com/usa/164576-police-lawsuit-filming-us/
    http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2014-03-20/news/chi-supreme-court-eavesdropping-law-20140320_1_illinois-supreme-court-illinois-eavesdropping-act-cook-county-jail
    https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20100927/16352111185/judge-tosses-out-wiretapping-charges-against-motorcyclist-who-filmed-cop-with-helmet-cam.shtml
    http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/chi-supreme-court-rejects-plea-to-prohibit-taping-of-police-20121126-story.html
    https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20100927/16352111185/judge-tosses-out-wiretapping-charges-against-motorcyclist-who-filmed-cop-with-helmet-cam.shtml
    And while the last link is actually pre-Glik, the court’s ruling on the matter used an argument used later in the Glik decision: that public servants, while in public view, have no reasonable expectation to privacy.

  11. bdross Jumping Jacks I think a fair summary would be that recording them was legal (hence no felony), but publishing the recording was not (hence the misdemeanor for that).  I realize it’s probably more nuanced than that, but I’m trying to keep it simple for Jacks…
    Since this case doesn’t involved publication, he wouldn’t even be guilty of the misdemeanor, let alone the felony.

  12. Robert Berman Jumping Jacks ???

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  1. Police Pay Out $275,000 For Illegal Wiretapping Arrest in Manchester | Free Keene - […] Now Manchester police are shelling out $275,000 to Alfredo Valentin who was arrested for recording the police on his…

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