You read that right, faithful reader. "Regret and apologize." And that's the US Constitution's 1st Amendment 'free-speech' protections and the NH Constitution's Part 1st (the state Bill of Rights equivalent) Article 8 'government accountability' mandates (as well as Article 22 'free speech,' of course), particularly, exercise of which on the fateful night of 7/10/2010 eventually earned your humble chronicler, over 7 months later on 2/22/2011, service of a belated but by then presumably quite carefully considered -- yet still profoundly misguided -- felony 'wiretapping' warrant.
These violations were in addition to their demonstrated serial contempt (and, in fact, uniquely demonstrated, WPD being the only NH police department ever to not eventually, wisely, in a nominally Article-8-'the-boss-has-given-us-our-orders' self-preservation sort of way, drop such charges for recording an employee cop) for NH statute RSA 570-A:1's clear definition of "oral communication." This state law stipulates prevailing circumstances justifying an expectation of privacy first before audio (the only type even at issue) recording can be considered "illegal". You say, officer, that you can't be overheard on a public street -- to say nothing of while coercing a non-voluntary conversation, on highly suspect pretext, as a public servant? I don't think so.
And I really did try to explain all this to them that night. Had they listened -- or hell, just subsequently taken the time to research it, themselves, in the convenience of their lair in the ensuing 7 months -- they could have saved us all a lot of time and aggravation, the taxpayers yet another liability insurance premium increase, and WPD considerable -- additional, I mean -- embarrassment and ultimately (finally) compelled public contrition. 'Course, by then they were "in for a penny" anyway, as the saying goes, with 2 if not 3 other 'wiretapping' cases simmering away already. Then they hit me with a felony charge, which in the booking room I also explained wasn't possible, since the recorder (me) was a party to the conversation. And eventually, while I sat waiting for the bail commissioner, a small voice (earlier that evening, the lead officer on the warrant service) from behind the desk was inspired to offer -- as a result of doing actual research, one might suppose (he's gone now, btw) -- "Y'know? I think you're right..." Hmm. But yeah, the charges were carefully considered, alright...
And other aspects, most notably the Article 15 right to produce potentially exculpatory evidence -- which ya can't "produce" if ya can't "produce," if ya know what I mean -- particularly when dealing with rogue servants with a legal monopoly on force (and a state-sanctioned license to kill, we've since learned, along with historically conveniently unreliable recording equipment of their own) and on top of it all, despite it all, somehow, long-established government permission to lie.
But the courts have all agreed that WPD should have already known they were acting illegally by arresting citizens recording their servants -- before I helpfully tried to explain it to them, detained against my will (and the law, for that matter) on the public roadside of a public thoroughfare. So again, no special some-pigs-are-more-equal-than-others "qualified immunity" (at least not on this particular issue anymore, in this jurisdiction, anyway...). Bottom line, if you're arrested in NH for recording cops, call a lawyer. No-brainer. (And no great surprise, I have an excellent experienced suggestion for ya...)
So, following yet another popular and well-deserved eventual defeat (and rapid settlement) in the legally related 'Gericke' case most recently before the US First Circuit Court of Appeals mere weeks ago (links to much relevant media -- along with the documenting of far too many other less-than-shining, occasionally surreally-malevolent-circus-like departmental moments, certainly not least of which being the tangential 2010~11 shakedown/perpetual stakeout/prosecution of a small business owner and subsequent settlement, or last year's infamous holy-shit-where-did-that-come-from "Murder by Unsupervised Sleepy Cops at a Donut Shoppe [followed by complicit AG dereliction]" and another subsequent quiet settlement thereof [are ya detecting a pattern here?] -- can be found interspersed here) -- anyway, following 'Gericke' (which was WPD's second 'wiretapping' civil settlement to that point), the ever-hapless Weare PD here once again played 'Washington Generals' to their frequent adversaries -- my champions on the field of high-stakes juridical combat -- the Law Offices of Martin & Hipple's 'Harlem Globetrotters'.
Yet all along, they and their (also -- and far too often and easily) tax-funded legal representation insisted on disdainfully maintaining their defiant denial of the ever-growing clarity of their situation's stark reality. Always petulantly (yet somehow still self-assuredly) behind the curve. Kicking and screaming and digging their hole. And it certainly did cost them. Repeatedly -- and, it should have been, entirely predictably. It all really could be terribly amusing if they weren't so terribly dangerous to life and liberty and town budgets...
Sidebar, your honor: One might posit that in the Grand Scheme, all this might not be all that important on its own, in isolation. I'd still object, but... An "alternative timeline," a "thought experiment" -- and a call to action -- that I think should be considered here, too, is that had the stunning exposures of 'Hodgdon' and 'Chatel' (even a cop/lawyer they attempted to destroy) and 'Gericke' and 'Kostric' and 'Alleman' (and...) all somehow been able to have run their collective legal course and exerted their collective influence only a year sooner, had activists (reluctant or otherwise) intent on reform somehow compelled from the grassroots up the long-necessary fundamental change (that very clearly was never going to be driven from anywhere else, anywhere with a metaphorical sceptre and fancy hat, any government entity actually stepping up and accepting responsibility, anywhere with effective jurisdiction and control and something remotely resembling an ethical code or even earnest fiducial concern for the ever-mounting tax impact), succeeded in compelling that real change in the Weare police department just a measly year sooner than they (hopefully) did, then Alex Cora DeJesus might very well still be alive today instead of having been murdered in a lunatic clusterfuck of contemptuous, incompetent, unsupervised (and ultimately unaccountable) cowboy police-state authoritarianism. In fact, the new chief, despite the "Thin Blue Line" traditionally separating employer and habitually insular and recalcitrant employee (so props for that), has invoked the "c" word. That's right, corruption.
Don't let this shit slide, people. Hold "troublesome servant and fearful master" government (excellent advice, disputed provenance or not) accountable and tightly tethered. Always. That's your responsibility if a free society is to be retained. If ya give 'em an inch, suddenly they think they're a ruler. They work for you, gorram it. Aim to "misbehave". Somebody's life could depend on it, after all -- could depend on you. Take a stand. Never forget, never dismiss, never underestimate the tangible cost of complacence and inaction.You, too, can compel positive change. Hell, someday soon we might even be able to stop the BEARCATs...
"We are not powerless. We have tremendous potential for good or ill. How we choose to use that power is up to us; but first we must choose to use it. We're told every day, 'You can't change the world.' But the world is changing every day. Only question is...who's doing it? You or somebody else?"
-J. Michael Straczynski-
Anyway, leaving us here, finally, 7/15/2014, four grueling years later. The historically defiantly non-responsive Weare PD (and presumably the town that allegedly supervised them, ostensibly kept them on a leash, and continues to pay the cost for them), collective hat in hand, is publicly sorry that they (or what's left of 'em at this point, anyway), with much consideration, put me through an unlawful arrest for lawfully recording them (after they willfully and with nefarious intent, and already much history, stalked me for 3 miles [notably, from the aforementioned strong-armed-but-ultimately-vindicated small business] and then filed a false police report about it -- but hey, who'd be made at all nervous by that...?) and a malicious prosecution (well, the courts only allowed them to get as far as a pre-trial defense motion before summarily kicking it, but you get the drift).
Apologize. With a formal letter. From the Weare police department. Yes. I don't know what it may have cost during settlement negotiations in terms of potential maximum monetary damages, but it was my (perhaps unrealistic) objective from the beginning. And my attorneys got it. And it was so worth it... (Although, formal "free speech violation" apologies from police chiefs might just be becoming a "thing"...)
Oh yeah, and $35K is nice, too, particularly given that my property taxes will likely be going up -- again -- to pay "my fair share" of so very much restitution for all WPD's arrogant transgressions against its employers, AKA humanity, and humanity's inalienable rights. And with it, too, WPD might just discover that they're helping to fund some more "projects" they'd probably still rather not be associated with...
And again, a profoundly heartfelt "thank you" to the Free State Project community, as well, for rallying to my financial and emotional support, desperately needed for me to wage this small, but I believe significant, and now finally successful fight against today's aggressively metastasizing police/"security" state. And thank you, Carla, for (being forced to) taking point in the 1st Circuit so I didn't have to. ;-) Hey, you got this kind of community where you live now, dear reader...?
So here's the letter of regret and apology, originally received via PDF'd fax on 6/25/2014 during final negotiations, 15 days shy of 4 years since the start of this oppressive odyssey -- again, one for which, as a Weare taxpayer, I've been "privileged" to fund both sides. Given the department's apparent cultural transformation (so far), I believe it was worth it. "No admission of wrong-doing" standard boilerplate? Ri-i-ight...
Although, the courts said that this, specifically, wasn't "new case law." That this was already established law. That's why we're here, after all, isn't it? "New law," unfathomably granting the protection of "qualified immunity," was expressly not the problem in this case. 'Feel-good aspirations going forward' are fine, but not keeping up with old established law was what got them in so much trouble. They clearly need continuing ed on the influence of old case law, too, seems to me.
Or, hell, maybe screw the ever-mounting self-serving conveniently-servant-government-interpreted court-decreed "precedents," and just review the actual, authorizing Constitution(s) and some "Andy Griffith Show" reruns -- you know, from back before the "War On People Who Use (Some) Drugs"™ and the "Perpetual Global War on Tactics" somehow eradicated the (supposedly binding) enumerated powers and the Bill of Rights, and rendered us all prisoners of our own ostensibly servant government.
I was recently approached at a local charity event by one of the principals in this particular adventure in the free state, to assure me that the change in his department is real and permanent. Only time will tell, of course, but I still want to see less "enforcement" and more "keeping the peace." As the new chief, himself, put his perception of what the people want (and what took them so long, anyway?)...
Good advice. But for whatever apparent deliberate change may have been implemented so far -- and given the above-related ignominy, where the hell else could they be at this point without sparking a sequel to the Pine Tree Riot (celebrated by the town's own historical society)? -- we're not quite there yet, young fella. Always out on the prowl, looking to start trouble, rather than just quietly sitting on your hands waiting for that call for assistance. From my perspective on the opposite side of the police radio scanner, "Sheriff Taylor" is still just an aspirational objective. Why can't police departments be more like fire departments? Weare's 2015 Town Meeting sure should be interesting...Even the unit’s longtime motto, “Maintaining Unity in the Community,” was overhauled. It now reads: “Preserving the Peace.”“That’s what our community wants us to do,” Velleca said. “They want us to understand, ‘Look, it’s peaceful here. Try and keep it that way. Don’t disrupt it. We’ll call you when we need you, and when we need you, please be professional and intelligent and know your job. But until then, let us be.’”
Anyway, take it away, Martin & Hipple. Following, victories first in my criminal case (a 'Golden Oldie' from 11/4/2011 -- and is it just me, or does Seth look a little like Malcolm Reynolds...?), and then (eventually, as soon as my attorneys return from their well-deserved 'victory lap') in my freshly settled civil case (hey, ya knew there'd be video here eventually, right?)...
- Weare, NH Resident Wins Settlement Against Weare Police Department, Announces The Law Offices of Martin & Hipple
- Bill Alleman of Weare, NH Wins Settlement for False Arrest
- Weare, NH Resident Wins Settlement Against Weare Police Department, Announces The Law Offices of Martin & Hipple | Reuters
- Morning links - The Washington Post (Radley Balko links to Reuters' picked-up press release)
- New Hampshire Man Gets Cop to Apologize After Arrest For Legal Act of Recording Him - Hit & Run : Reason.com
- Another Weare police suit settled | New Hampshire Public Safety
- Alleman wins suit alleging retaliatory prosecution vs Weare PD - Community News for Goffstown, Dunbarton, New Boston & Weare, NH
- Weare Police Settle Another Cameraman Arrest Case for $35,000 | Free Keene
- Weare police settle suit from resident over videotaping officer | Concord Monitor
Addendum. "It could be worse." I hear that occasionally, usually voiced with at least mild exasperation -- "What's wrong with you? Be happy you're not in a gulag...!" The suggestion, apparently, being that incessantly compounding rights violations by ostensibly servant government are trivial and inevitable, and we simply shouldn't poke the deadly and conscience-free dragon.
I concede that I'm not in an actual gulag (yet -- although how far off is the "effective" border fence, which necessarily works both ways? And the metaphorical "border fence" of the capriciously pulled passport, or the secret "no-fly" list clearly already exist -- 'cuz obviously people need government's gracious permission to exercise their inalienable rights. Or "extraordinary rendition." Or the NDAA. And what of the fundamental right to travel, enjoyed by "all men," according to this government's charter, and protected by this government wherever it enjoys lawful jurisdiction -- and outside of which it's acting criminally, anyway). Is that then necessarily cause for rejoicing, or even mere complacence? I don't live in North Korea or Cuba -- or even New Jersey, for that matter -- and that should be good enough for anyone? What would the Framers think? And even if the US were "the freest country in the world," that's damning with faint praise, anyway, as far as I'm concerned. Only the "best" of an entirely bad lot.
But "it" -- by which I'm referring particularly to our strained (even one-sided, the wrong, the unauthorized, the unlawful way) relationship with our increasingly recalcitrant overlords (a condition that, refreshingly, seems to escape the notice of fewer every day) -- didn't used to be this bad, now did it? And not all that far back, either (relatively speaking, of course). By rights (see what I did there?), there should have been another secessionist revolution (like the one we all just ostensibly celebrated on Independence Day, right?) long ago, but it got this bad because too many Stockholm Syndrome sufferers have always protested, at their least conspicuously sycophantic, "Hey, it could be worse."
Sure. And following utterance of that phrase, it will always get worse. And mostly for future generations, sadly, who conveniently have no say in the matter and, also conveniently, will never have a nettlesome memory of "how it used to be" hampering their resigned compliance -- particularly if they're fed their history by self-serving government schools, lionizing oath-breakers like--. Well, this post has prattled on long enough already.
Anyway, at the very least, "it" will get worse because it's perceived as a challenge. But more likely because it's perceived as a gift-wrapped, silver-plattered opportunity by self-authorized thieves of other people's "life, liberty and property." Worse because the depths of the people's tolerance, inexplicably, has yet to be plumbed. Worse until some semblance of effective resistance is met.
It could also always be better, however. Hell, that's the direction the activists united by the FSP are all about charting. Toward better. But 'better' won't happen as long as too many are satisfied with it simply not being worse -- which, since empirically they aren't at their tolerance limit yet, it will be tomorrow. Worse. Continually, until their limit is found -- at least. Guaranteed.
"The natural tendency of things, it seems, is for government to grow and for liberty to retreat."Me, I'm aiming for better. I'm agitating for better (not as effectively as some, but hey, we do what we can, right?). But that must start with simply not being resigned to 'not worse (yet).' "Show up," and demand better, as your birthright.
Just for the record, though, in this particular odyssey, starting at this particular midnight, I was actually making a verifiably coordinated effort to avoid this particular challenge -- just like the naysayers would want me to do. Just trying to get home uneventfully. Yes, granted, following a marvelous (entirely peaceful) rally that certainly attracted (further heightened) infelicitous unlawful attention. Is that, too, illegal now?
But "worse" was relentlessly intent (in a violent-latchkey-teenager-with-too-much-idle-time-on-his-hands sort of way) on testing my tolerance limit, regardless. It hunted for me (well, for someone leaving that particular parking lot -- I was just the ultimately-illconsidered-prey-of-opportunity), and it stalked me with the objective of intimidating me, and it violated the law as well as my inalienable rights. Great job "protecting and serving," that. Fortunately, like that mouse flipping off the diving hawk, righteously indignant self-defense just took over, and I did what I could.
And justice has now finally been served. Cold as a "Live Free or Die" winter...