Ramsey Co. Jury Exonerates Cameraman
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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Free Speech Prevails, Peaceably Public Filming OK
St. Paul, MN (2-27-14) — Today, the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota’s client, Andrew Henderson, was found not guilty by a Ramsey County Jury in regards to charges of obstruction of justice and disorderly conduct. Henderson was cited in fall 2012 for passively filming paramedics and sheriff’s deputies in the parking lot of his apartment building.
“I feel incredibly relieved and excited that I was acquitted of all charges,” stated Andrew Henderson. He continued, “This is an important victory not only for me, but for other individuals like me who think recording interactions with the police are an important part of our First Amendment rights.”
Henderson was outside his building when he noticed an incident occurring involving a man from his building, law enforcement officials, and the paramedics. He began passively filming the incident. Shortly thereafter the paramedics complained to a deputy who then approached Henderson and asked him to stop filming. When he refused, his camera was confiscated, and he was cited for disorderly conduct and obstruction of justice.
“We are incredibly pleased with this result,” stated Charles Samuelson, Executive Director of the ACLU-MN. “The ACLU-MN has long maintained that the First Amendment protects an individual’s right to film police and other public officials engaged in official duties in public spaces.”
ACLU-MN cooperating attorneys: John Lundquist & Kevin Riach of Fredrikson & Byron, P.A.
UPDATED Video ( The ACLU announced a victory after a two-day trial and a 90-minute jury deliberation found him not guilty.):
Andrew Henderson thanks his supporters and says, “This is a message of appreciation to those who have been following my experience of videotaping peace officers performing official duties in a public place that resulted in my camera being confiscated and me being charged with Obstructing a Legal Process and Disorderly Conduct.
Thank you for your support. It was overwhelming to see so many supportive comments resulting from the Pioneer Press newspaper’s coverage, as well as the support words from many First Amendment bloggers and comments by many others, and thanks for taking your time to become involved and write or discuss this important First Amendment rights issue.
While criticisms are certainly hard to read or hear, they are still a part of civilized discussions. I’m thankful – as we all should be – that we live in a country where we have safe formats for expressing opposing viewpoints.
I want to thank the many members of the Twin Cities legal community who responded to the by volunteering to represent me in this matter. I appreciate your interest and willingness to help.
I’m grateful to be able to announce that the Minnesota American Civil Liberties Union has decided to take on my legal defense.
As of today, the charges against me have not been dropped. I have a pre-trial hearing date set for Jan. 30th at 8:30am At the Ramsey County Suburban Courthouse.
I want you to know that whether you agree or disagree with individuals observing and recording peace officers engaged in the public discharge of their duties, I have a clear conscious and am at peace with my actions. I acted lawfully – First Amendment principles and federal case law established that a constitutional right – and while doing so, I did not act disorderly nor did I obstruct a legal process.
Thanks again to all of you. I didn’t want to wait until this legal matter was all settled before I thanked you for your support and interest . Please know that it is appreciated.”
Griffin Woodards says: “I just went through a similar situation in Chesterfield Va and I was charged with obstruction. I am now spending weekends in jail. Please know that if you appeal the district court decision and take it to circuit court that you have a right to a jury trial. Judges always side with officers. This info was not shared with me by the judge or my court appointed lawyer. I was only informed about my rights after the court decision. I hope there is still something I can do. The officer in my case testified that I was in no way threatening or offensive. If I had known about my right to a jury trial before hand I have no doubt I would have had a different outcome. Good luck I am rooting for you.”
Carlos Miller of PINAC posted the following on his blog:
“Just over a year ago in January, Andrew Henderson of Minnesota was unable to get the attention of the ACLU to help him in his case after he was criminally charged for video recording a local deputy standing by as another man was being placed into an ambulance.
Two months earlier, Ramsey County sheriff’s deputy Jackie Muellner snatched his camera, telling him she did not want to be on Youtube. She also accused him of violating the federal HIPAA law, which really has to do with the privacy of medical records, not with the photography of medical patients.
He was not arrested on the spot, but was charged with disorderly conduct and obstructing justice more than a week later. And when they returned his camera two weeks after that, his footage had been deleted.
The welder made too much money to qualify for a public defender but not enough to hire an attorney. And more than a month went by after he had contacted the local ACLU with no response.
So on January 6, 2013, he published an 18-minute video to Youtube, explaining the entire situation, including audio he had recorded on his Android after she had snatched his camera.”
“On January 9, I published his story on PINAC, encouraging readers to call the ACLU to urge them to take his case:
The 28-year-old welder said he makes too much money for a public defender but not enough to hire an attorney.
He said he reached out to the ACLU more than a month ago, but was ignored.
Meanwhile, he is facing disorderly conduct and obstructing charges, which were filed more than a week after a Ramsey County sheriff’s deputy illegally confiscated his camera. Read the report here.
Henderson has a pretrial hearing scheduled for January 30. Call (651) 645-4097 to encourage the ACLU of Minnesota to assist him in this matter. Or email them at ACLU of Minnesota.
After three days of phone calls and emails from PINAC readers, he was contacted by the ACLU, inviting him to meet with them in person to discuss his case, as I reported on my Facebook page at the time:
This is not only a huge victory for Henderson, 29, who is now running for city council. But a huge victory for the PINAC community because it shows the power we have by backing each other up when needed.
But, it shows the importance of resorting to back-up recorders if they confiscate the first recorder and using social media, especially Youtube, to get your story out there.”