Articles Posted in Police Brutality

On February 6 2010, I posted a story about the arrest of a man on the Boston Common, after he had taken video of Boston police allegedly engaging in unnecessary use of force in arresting a man.

Simon Glick was walking along Tremont Street in Boston on October 1 2007, when he observed three uniformed Boston police officers using considerable force in arresting another man. Glick, now a practicing criminal defense attorney, was a law student at the time and suspected police brutality. His suspicions were reinforced upon hearing another observer shout “You are hurting him, stop!” at the officers. Glick video recorded the event with his cell phone. When the officers saw this they arrested him – for violating, they alleged, the Massachusetts wiretap law Mass. Gen. Laws Ch. 272, § 99. The “wiretapping statute” criminalizes the “interception of wire and oral communications” and defines “interception” as the secret recording of the contents of a communication, without the permission of all parties to the communication (emphasis added.)

Massachusetts is known as a so-called “two-party consent” state, meaning both parties to a phone conversation or an otherwise private meeting must be informed of, and consent to, audio recording of the conversation, in order for that recording to be legally permissible. It was (and is) designed to prevent someone from secretly audio taping a phone conversation, or secretly audio taping a meeting being held. To almost no surprise among Massachusetts criminal defense lawyers, the criminal prosecution against Glick was later dismissed, particularly due to the fact that there was no “secret” recording of this event.

On Oct. 17 2010, police officers in the town of Mount Pleasant, New York, shot and killed Easton resident Danroy “DJ” Henry, age 20, outside a bar at a shopping center in that town, not far from New York City. Henry was at the bar with friends, after attending a football game between Pace University (where he attended college,) and Stonehill College. Police alleged that officers shot Henry after he struck police officers with his car. Other witnesses disputed this account, saying that Henry was only moving his car at the request of police, when they suddenly jumped on the hood of the car and shot him through the windshield. Immediately Henry’s death, his family disputed the police Department version of events, and called for an immediate investigation.

The mother of one of Henry’s friends who was in the car and who was also shot and wounded in the incident, disputed the police account in an interview with CNN shortly after the shooting. Donna Parks said that Henry and others in the car were waiting for a friend to come out of the establishment “when a police officer banged … on the window.” In response, she said that Henry began driving after her son, Brandon Cox, told Henry that he thought police wanted him to move his car. “Another police officer with his gun drawn just ran out in front of DJ’s car,” as he was moving it, said Parks, who insisted that Henry had no time to stop. Parks has also told CNN that after police shot Henry multiple times, they “pulled him out of the car, handcuffed him, put him face down on the ground and left him there for 15 to 20 minutes.”

Amidst calls for an investigation, shortly after Henry’s death, the Westchester, New York District Attorney’s Office commenced a grand jury inquiry of the incident. Yesterday, that office announced that, “after due deliberation on the evidence presented in this matter, the grand jury found that there was no reasonable cause to vote an indictment.”

A funny thing happened on the way to the Common in 2007.

It seems that one Simon Glik, 33, was walking along Tremont Street next to the Boston Common on October 1 2007, when he observed three (yes, three) uniformed Boston police officers arresting another man, and using considerable force. Glick, a law student at the time and now (perhaps no surprise,) a criminal defense attorney, heard another man shouting “You are hurting him, stop!” at the officers. Thinking that he was witnessing three police officers brutalize the man who was being arrested, Glick used his cell phone to video record the event. When these officers saw Glick recording them on video, they arrested him. For what? For violating, they alleged, the Massachusetts wiretap law – Mass. Gen. Laws Ch. 272, § 99. The “wiretapping statute” criminalizes the “interception of wire and oral communications” and defines “interception” as the secret recording of the contents of a communication, without the permission of all parties to the communication. The staute provides that persons violating the law may be punished by a fine of up to $10,000, or imprisoned for up to five years, or both. Massachusetts is among the minority of states that prohibit recording a conversation without the permission of all parties involved. In this area of law, Massachusetts is known as a so-called “two-party consent” state, meaning both parties to a phone conversation or otherwise private meeting must be informed of, and consent to, audio recording of the conversation, in order for that recording to be legal. It was (and is) designed to prevent someone from secretly audio taping a phone conversation, or secretly audio taping a meeting being held.

Not surprisingly, the case was later dismissed, particularly due to the fact that there was no “secret” recording of this event. Notwithstanding, it seems obvious (at least to me, as a Boston criminal defense lawyer,) what these officers were trying to cover up: The fact that they were using excessive force in arresting the first man, which Glick (and at least one other observer – the man who yelled out “Stop, you are hurting him!”) had witnessed. As a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney who has defended cases from assault and battery to drug offenses and sexual offenses, I can only imagine the reaction of the Assistant DA in the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office who ended up being the recipient of this case (“These cops expect me to prosecute for this? It’ll be thrown out in a second.”) As I said, this statute was intended exclusively to prevent hidden, covert audio recordings of phone conversations or otherwise private meetings – not video recording of public events. Without doubt, these officers saw themselves getting caught in the act of police brutality, and then made things even worse by arresting Glick on this essentially baselss charge.