This story of wrongful arrest for recording police and — at length — legal vindication is typical, but notable because it took place right here in Pittsburgh:
The American Civil Liberties Union has won a $48,500 settlement of a lawsuit stemming from a Hill District man’s arrest for videotaping police, it announced today.
Elijah Matheny was arrested in April 2009 when he used his cell phone to record the arrest of a friend by University of Pittsburgh police. The police said they got Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office approval to accuse him of wiretapping. All charges against Mr. Matheny later were dropped.
It’s awful to see this happening here. The University of Pittsburgh ought to be ashamed of themselves. But it seems that they aren’t: the university (which is funded by the state) will pay the officer’s settlement. Stephen Zappala, the Allegheny County DA, should be tossed out of office.
When police persecute people for doing nothing more than documenting their activities, they are declaring that they, the enforcers of the law, are above the law themselves. That is utterly unacceptable.