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CopBlock.org Founder Faces 21 Years in Prison for Reporting Police Brutality (cnn.com)
253 points by wtvanhest on Aug 5, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 61 comments

He is not being charged for posting the (mentioned) publicly recorded video of the cop slamming the kids face into the table.

What he is being charged for is calling police officials and others on the phone after this, and recording the conversations without getting the other parties permission to record the phone call... Then posting those recordings online.

This is how 95% of these stories are. Facts are hidden, what happened is misrepresented; stories to fit narratives are made up.

Don't get me wrong, if you call an on-duty police official at the police station maybe they shouldn't be given/expect privacy, but this story makes it seem that this guy is being charged for posting the mentioned video. Clearly he is not.

>What he is being charged for is calling police officials and others on the phone after this, and recording the conversations without getting the other parties permission to record the phone call... Then posting those recordings online. >This is how 95% of these stories are. Facts are hidden, what happened is misrepresented; stories to fit narratives are made up.

Even so, the idea that someone can be given 21 years for recording a phone conversation with a public official is insane.

For comparison --

  The penalty for negligent homicide is 7 years.
  Aggravated felonious sexual assault 10 years minimum.
  Abuse of office is a misdemeanor.

Here is the post that this is all about:


The first video has a recording of him interviewing police in public, standing out on the street.

The second video shows him calling the police department and asking them for commentary about the police-slamming-kids-head slamming video. The call is about 15 seconds long, the police have no comment and hang up. He then has a 2 minute call there with the school principal.

The third video is the slamming the head video. Basically an officer assaults a student and another student recorded it.

We'd have to look at the actual court documents to see the details of which phone recodrings are being used to charge him. Aside from the posted police and school offical call, there could also be other non-published calls.

The "State of NH" vs Adam Mueller


> Basically an officer assaults a student and another student recorded it.

I've watched the video, and it looks to me like the kid tries to resist the officer in some way, it escalates, and when he gets turned around his chest goes down on the table. I wouldn't call this a clear-cut example of an assult.

> the kid tries to resist the officer in some way, it escalates, and when he gets turned around his chest goes down on the table.

The _kid_ tries to resist the _fully grown man_ in _some way_...

What way? If your observation is acute enough to see through the opaque man to tell that it's "his chest [that] goes down on the table", then surely it's good enough to tell us in what way the child tries to resist.

What disturbs me is how ready people are to dismiss this as acceptable. Whether force is warranted or not, whether the minor did something or not, whether he resisted or not, the force is still clearly excessive. A submission hold would be sufficient. And I would expect that the policeman would know how to execute a submission hold. So I can only think that he chose not to, and instead decided to, how do you American's put it, 'open a can of whoop-ass' on the boy.

These days, American schools more resemble prisons than places of learning.

I watched the video too and didn't see that. It looked to me like he jerked the kid up, was shaking him around and talking to him, then slams him down (apparently after the kid says something back). Either way, agree it's not clear cut as the cell phone camera work made it tough to see clearly.

It's interesting that there's some girl berating and trying to stop the videographer from shooting. The part where it gets really shaky she might be physically trying to stop him. It sounds like she's a student. She says "You're recording this and you're not supposed to be recording it" and then calls "teacher!". Is it against the law to shoot video in American schools, now?

I don't think it's against the law. But, in an interview the student w/ the cell phone camera says there is a "no electronics" policy at the school, which I imagine means he's not supposed to have his cell phone with him. There's probably also a policy about video taping in schools.

This makes much more sense. Still... I should be able to record my own phone calls, right? I think by picking up a phone you should be ready to be recorded especially as a police officer/prominent public figure.

> I should be able to record my own phone calls, right?

In most states, only one person needs to be aware that the conversation is being recorded. His conduct would have been completely legal in the majority of the US. [1]

It seems like 21 years is a very harsh sentence for conduct that isn't physically dangerous and isn't even illegal in the majority of the US.

I seem to remember reading or hearing somewhere that police departments actually like the rule used by most states, "recording is legal as long as at least one participant in the conversation knows about it." This makes gathering evidence in investigations a lot easier because you can record everything without a warrant. If we suppose the world consists of "criminals," "informants," and "police," and police and informants always know about their own recording devices, then criminal-to-criminal calls are the only case that needs a warrant in a state with one-party notification. Informant-to-criminal and police-to-criminal can legally be recorded without a warrant, probable cause, reasonable suspicion, or any basis whatsoever in such states.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Telephone_recording_laws#Unite...

It's something of a relic of early-20th-c debates on wiretapping. Some states came to the conclusion that it's "wiretapping" unless both sides of a conversation agree, which has a certain privacy-law type feel to it. In other states, it's only wiretapping if you're doing it unbeknownst to both participants, which is closer to the normal definition of wiretapping, looking more at the "sneaking onto a phone line you don't belong on" aspect rather than privacy concerns.

It can produce some oddities in companies as well. It's now assumed that a corporation can read employees' email, for example, or record their internet or IM traffic. But in a two-party-consent state, it would be illegal for your employer to record telephone calls made from your office phone, unless they get the consent of each person you talk to.

> But in a two-party-consent state, it would be illegal for your employer to record telephone calls made from your office phone, unless they get the consent of each person you talk to.

My understanding is that the most restrictive state applies, so you don't even have to be in a two-party state, you just need to be calling one.

In any case, this is why every call center you talk to says "this call may be recorded" when you first connect. It's not just a courtesy!

I've been told the opposite. If your call is interstate, then federal rules (one party consent) apply.

According to this page, it's not 100% clear or consistent, but the more restrictive state's laws applying is definitely a possibility: http://www.rcfp.org/can-we-tape/interstate-phone-calls

It varies by state law if you need to inform the other party of the recording being made, and what you can do with it afterwards...


There's should and there's the law. More relevant here, is 21 years for recording a phone call a just sentence?

He hasn't been sentenced, nor is there any real chance that he faces a year in prison, let alone 21.

How would you know what his chances are? You don't. No one does. It's a crap shoot (and a rediculous charge).

I'm going to go ahead and answer your first question with the obvious question: "what is the longest anyone has ever been imprisoned for recording a police officer?"

"What he is being charged for is calling police officials and others on the phone after this, and recording the conversations without getting the other parties permission to record the phone call..."

According to Article 22 of the New Hampshire constitution, "free speech ... [is] to be inviolably preserved". It is difficult to reconcile this "wiretapping" law with the constitution.

> According to Article 22 of the New Hampshire constitution, "free speech ... [is] to be inviolably preserved". It is difficult to reconcile this "wiretapping" law with the constitution.

Why do you think that free speech implies a right to record what someone else says without their permission?

While "crowdsourced" reporting is kind of cool, this report strikes me as an example of that idea gone awry. It took some googling to find a reasonable account, from the Reporters Committee For Freedom of the Press[0]. This would, if anything, be biased toward Mr. Mueller, but it put the above article in an entirely different light.

1) As others have pointed out, he's on trial for allegedly recording three telephone calls to the police, a school principal, and a school secretary, without the consent of all parties, then made them publicly available. This is a felony under NH law. The iReport article implies, via quotations from multiple sources, that Mr. Mueller is on trial for filming police brutality. In fact, it appears that he called these parties for comment, so this doesn't even seem to be an issue of the right to record your arrest, or interested interactions with the state.

2) CopBlock.org and other "citizen watch" type sites might be a great idea, but performances like Mr. Mueller's, who apparently insists on the court calling him "Ademo Freeman", says things like "Bring on the Circus", and represents himself in a criminal case just paint these movements in a bad light. Police brutality, over-reaching state authority, etc. might be big problems; this kind of misguided moral crusade does not help.

3) I can understand the frustration supporters might find with inconsistent applications of wiretapping laws: I am not sure the state would care if a random citizen made three phone calls public, if no one pressed charges or there weren't some other reason. This article in no way communicates any of these issues and instead implements a tirade of misdirection and indignation.

Finally, I'd like to say something in defense of professional journalists. I know they often get a bad rap as being either extensions of the state vying for "influence" or sensationalists chasing controversy in every corner, but reports like this make me appreciate journalists who:

- call for comment - search for credible sources, preferably ones with opposing viewpoints - read or link to actual court documents

EDIT: You can find the video where he publishes the recordings here: http://youtu.be/sEhFwI6IyMU . Both the principal and the police officer made it reasonably clear they did not wish to discuss the matter. While the principal did respond to Mueller's questions, it seems unlikely she implied any consent to record.


You're correct that the facts in this story have been distorted and the guy sounds like he's antagonizing authorities to some degree, but that being said there really should be outrage about this case. Facing a possible 21 years for recording conversations with public officials is not something one would normally associate with a free country. It's highly unlikely he'd be facing these charges if he wasn't an activist that embarrassed the police.

Are you suggesting the wiretap laws shouldn't be applicable if the uninformed end of the conversation is a public official?

I don't think one party recording a conversation they're in with another party should be considered wiretapping in general, and especially not if one party is a public official. Public officials' actions affect people's lives and shielding their communication and actions from scrutiny reduces their accountability.

"Under United States federal law and most state laws there is nothing illegal about one of the parties to a telephone call recording the conversation, or giving permission for calls to be recorded or permitting their telephone line to be tapped. However, several states (e.g., California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Washington) require that all parties consent when one party wants to record a telephone conversation."


Too bad he's in New Hampshire, otherwise him being one of the party aware of recording the conversation would make the recording perfectly legal.

His lawyers can probably blow this out of state (internet being an inter-state medium, appeals and maybe even supremacy clause) where federal law will take precedence over the state law. This case will be a waste of time, money and government resources and a circus nonetheless.

You realize that can't happen right? He's been accused of breaking the law of the state he lives in. That won't change if the case gets appealed to federal courts.

Having laws which are only enforced against people you don't like is unfair. Laws should be like trademarks, if they're not vigorously enforced, then they should lose force.

I like that principle. I often wonder how we can sunset old bad laws, and this sounds like a good approach. Either enforce the laws, or lose them.

I think he's suggesting that two decades in prison is an unreasonable punishment for violating those laws.

I'm with you on the disgust for these Assange-personas, but what he did should not be illegal.

He was talking to public servants over a line owned by the state. He was specifically contacting them because of their respective roles in public departments. He was contacting them to talk about things that fall squarely into their responsibilities as public servants.

Public servants have no expectation of privacy in fulfilling their duties, why should it be different when you talk to them over the phone about said duties?

So yes, these wiretapping laws need to go.

So when you tap the states phones against the law, its 21 years in jail. When the state taps your phones against the law, it's retroactive immunity! And then fully funded programmes tapping all phones, everywhere!

Doesn't quite seem fair to me.

I agree, particularly with your last point. While I feel for this guys plight, his actions could make legitimate journalistic practices more difficult.

According to the one other source I found, it wasn't the video which led to the charges.

He recorded a subsequent phone call with the police department without notifying them that the call was being recorded. According to Wikipedia, regarding the recording of telephone conversations, New Hampshire is an 'all parties consent' state, and seemingly by his own admission he broke this law. Thus the calls for jury nullification, to ignore a law which they find unjust.

So recording a phone call (without consent) is a reason for locking someone up for 21 years?

Good question. Here is a complete transcript that I have typed up of the 24 second long phone call that is the controversial call in question. (source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sEhFwI6IyMU)

Patrol Captain Office, can I help you?

Ah yes, I was calling to see if there was a comment about a video that is surfacing on line of Detective Murphy slamming a 17 year old child on top of a table.

Well, I haven't seen the video. Where is it?

It's on a web site called CopBlock.org.

OK, I'll take a look. (Click.)

One observation and one question.

First... this guy is gonna be a hero with a capital H if they send him to prison for recording the cops. Hero with the left and the libertarian right. Hero with the other prisoners... probably beyond that whole black-white gang thing. He will be untouchable.


I would also like to try to get an idea of the reasoning behind making it illegal to record the police, or indeed ANY public servant, in the execution of their duties. Suppose I make a phone call to, let's say, a public school. During this call I inquire about something erroneous that they may have been telling my child... as I understand this, it is illegal for me to record that call to use as documentary evidence of the challenges the child may face in that school.

I am wondering why that is the case? There must be some 'bad' way that can be used, so they don't allow it. I just can't see what 'bad' thing it s the government is worried about. Any lawyers out there able to address that quickly?

All of the reasons are silly, but in order of most to least reasonable:

* Recording officers creates a permanent record of their identity which causes problems for undercover operations.

* Bystanders who record the police frequently interfere (directly, physically) with police actions and can put themselves or others in danger.

* Recorded video is frequently edited to create misleading narratives and spurs nuisance claims against the police.

* The police are themselves required to jump through all sorts of due process hoops to surveil people, so they should benefit from the same protections while on the job.

(Incidentally: all these reasons are probably true; they're just wildly insufficient to restrict video recording).

1) Umm, facebook?

2) Frequently is a nice general word. I would argue, that it's not nearly enough times to cause an impact on enforcing the law while recording the police has resulted in many outings of abuse of power.

3) If anyone honestly thinks that's a problem, then they shouldn't ever set foot in a court room. Court is all about editing and sculpting the evidence as much as you possibly can to support your case. And again, the benefits of recording the cops hugely outweigh the (theoretical) negatives.

4) It's impossible for a civilian to get a warrant to spy on a police officer. I don't see your point.

I am not sure who you are arguing with.

I think, even though you said you believe those reasons are silly/wildly insufficient, they are in fact so very silly/wildly insufficient that some people just can't help themselves argue against them :)

The main reasons behind this law have nothing to do with police work or public officials, actually. Two-party consent wiretapping laws generally apply regardless of who's on the other end. You could get charged for recording your own grandmother, not just a cop. (At least in principle you could, though it probably wouldn't happen.)

So why were these laws enacted? Basically to protect privacy. State legislatures decided that surreptitious recording of one's one phone calls was an invasion of the other person's privacy. I personally am against these laws, but that's the rationale behind them. It's not about protecting cops in particular.

I think these laws were enacted solely to protect deeply corrupt systems, but I might be biased because I live in Illinois. With laws like this, administration-connected people can be openly corrupt, because the collection of evidence against them is in itself evidence of a crime.

No one is prosecuted for corruption in Illinois unless they become a roadblock in some way to someone with more clout (after which they resign and charges are quietly dropped), or the Feds come to town.

"Basically to protect privacy. ... I personally am against these laws"

But if there weren't these laws, surely every time you use the phone to anyone (e.g. your wife), you'd have to treat everything you say as if it were public. Because the other party could be recording you and could then make the recording public, and there'd be nothing you could do about it.

Surely that's not a thing you'd want?

This certainly sounds egregious, and it may very well be, but all of the posts I can find on the subject appear to be written with approximately the same tone (one on prwire, which takes any press release folks want to post) and this one from iReport (which is crowdsourced).

I would be interested in reading any sources folks know about about this that are external to the Free Ademo movement.

I couldn't find a good one so I posted the link to CNN, I am with you on needing a better source

> The controversial felony wiretapping charges journalist and CopBlock.org founder Adam ‘Ademo’ Mueller is facing will go to trial, a situation that has stirred up a hornet’s nest of free speech advocates in New Hampshire.

Not on the topic of the article, but this must be the worst-written sentence I've read in weeks; I had to read it three times before I finally figured out what it meant (a dude is going to trial).

I think the implication is that the felony wiretapping charges will be one of the things on trial, due to the efforts towards jury nullification.

But, yes, that is a horrible sentence.

21 years for wiretapping? This surely sounds extreme, to the point of being incredible - can somebody with some expertise in legal system evaluate how probably is to get such sentence? Given no priors, no history of violence, no harm to property or any person and no criminal intent - even if he violated the law I don't see how it can even warrant one year in jail, let alone 21. Is US judicial system really that screwed up or is it just imagination of article writers?

It's very simple to understand. The person charged is a human rights and justice blogger who runs a site called CopBlock where for years he has posted videos of police brutality, lawlessness and thuggery. He is a thorn in the side of the police and they are highly aware of him and watch him closely looking for slip-ups.

In November 2011 he recorded a 24 second long call devoid of content where the person on the other end was a desk officer in a two-party consent state. This act of recording gave them probable cause for arrest, and he is in fact guilty of the "crime". This is a popular tactic for dealing with social justice advocates in authoritarian regimes: watch them closely and surely they will be guilty of something eventually.

As Cardinal Richelieu said, "Qu'on me donne six lignes écrites de la main du plus honnête homme, j'y trouverai de quoi le faire pendre." (If one would give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest man, I would find something in them to have him hanged.) In the US there are so many laws on the books, that all of us are violating some of them almost daily. This is discussed in Harvey Silverglate's book "Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent", Gene Healy's "Go Directly to Jail: The Criminalization of Almost Everything", and Paul Rosenzweig's "One Nation Under Arrest: How Crazy Laws, Rogue Prosecutors, and Activist Judges Threaten Your Liberty".

Much more shocking than this incident are the people who benefit from living in a free and just society, but who are supporting and defending the charges and proposed prison sentence in this travesty, this abomination, this violation of humanity and of human rights. 21 years in prison for a human rights activist, where he will be subjected to the endemic prison rape and violence that the inmates of the american justice system enjoy? All because of recording a 24 second call with police? To see members of the public supporting this in any way whatsoever is utterly nauseating and those people supporting even any sentence at all are vile monsters, devoid of any decency or reason.

Wow, to put this into perspective if you kill someone in Australia you're looking at a sentence of about 15 years in comparison to recording someone without their permission and getting 21 years... This is seriously a joke and given the outrage being generated by almost everyone you know he'll walk free. The fact CNN is writing about this and by the language used in the article they agree he shouldn't be jailed it'll be interesting to see what comes of all of this.

Not CNN. CNN iReport, which is citizen journalism; no editorial oversight or factchecking by CNN, just random Internet people posting stories.

Also to put things in perspective, Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian terrorist who killed 69 teenagers last summer, will get a maximum of 21 years in prison. This is the highest sentence possible under Norwegian law.

That isn't quite right. The 21 year sentence can be extended to keep him in prison for life [0].

He is not going to be walking out of jail free 21 years from now.

[0] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-17724535

Yes, but the point was the "punishment" part is 21 years maximum. Any additional time will be only to protect the lives of other citizens.

Not sure if its fair to call you out on this but what would any additional "punishment" bring anyone ? 21 years is a long long time.

Extending the prison term seems like the right way to go and keep the issues of punishment and safekeeping separate.

Yes, I agree with this. 20+ sentences seem redundant - anything more is basically a life sentence.

Don't know if you're from Norway, but Norwegian criminal law has a distinction between 21 years, which is the maximum sentence permitted by law, and "forvaring", which is explicitly defined as additional, indefinite custody with the express purpose of protecting society from violent criminals which have a very high risk of doing repeat offenses.

For the curious, I believe these are the videos in question: http://www.copblock.org/8754/manchh/

(Second video is the phone calls, third video is the high school recording)

I wish this article was written by an actual journalist. Seems to be very one-sided.

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