A Connecticut man, with help from the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut, is suing three state police troopers for allegedly fabricating charges against him and—among other things—taking his camera without a warrant. Video shows the three state troopers allegedly making up the charges in the Sept. 11, 2015 incident.
In a news release, the ACLU-CT reported that Michael Picard was protesting near a police DUI checkpoint in Hartford with a sign reading, “Cops ahead, remain silent” when he was approached by the three troopers: John Barone, Patrick Torneo, and John Jacobi. The troopers work for the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection.
The video begins with Barone telling Picard it’s “illegal” to take his picture as he goes to take Picard’s camera. Picard says it isn’t, reminding him they’re on public property. Barone responds, “Personally, it is illegal.” According to ACLU of Connecticut Legal Director Dan Barrett, who is representing Picard in the lawsuit, police, without warning Picard to stop recording, first knocked the camera down. The video begins when Picard picks up the camera from the ground.
While Picard is waiting the troopers, not knowing the camera is still working and recording, begin to discuss what charges they can give Picard. To do so they at one point called a Hartford police officer to see if the officer had any “grudges” against Picard. Picard was ultimately hit with “reckless use of a highway by a pedestrian” and “creating a public disturbance.”
“What we say is that multiple motorists stopped to complain about a guy waving a gun around, but none of them wanted to stop and make a statement,” Master Sergeant Torneo is heard saying.
Picard and the ACLU-CT’s lawsuit alleges the troopers prevented Picard's right to record by knocking his camera over trying to break it and by blocking him from taking photos of police license plates with his cell phone after the troopers took Picard’s camera. The lawsuit also says the stop was a Fourth Amendment violation.
“Police should be focused on public safety, not punishing protesters and those who film public employees working on a public street,” said Barrett. “As the video shows, these police officers were more concerned with thwarting Mr. Picard’s free speech and covering their tracks than upholding the law.”
You can read the complaint from Picard and the ACLU-CT here.