Yesterday afternoon, something insane happened. Prominent local blogger Carlos Miller declined to comment for a story when reached by New Times. This was remarkable because (a) Miller loves to talk and (b) the circumstances of the short conversation were rather strange.
Miller, who runs the blog Photography Is Not a Crime to defend citizens' right to record public officials in the streets, might soon face criminal charges in Boston for witness intimidation -- a crime that carries a potential ten-year prison sentence.
Last month, Boston resident Jay Kelly posted a video on YouTube showing his recent confrontation with city police over his right to record an arrest on a public street. Seeing this, Miller and his blog's followers went apoplectic.
This wasn't the first time Boston officials had assailed a resident with a camera. In 2011, the Boston Police Department forked over $170,000 to settle a lawsuit involving a man who'd been arrested on "wiretapping" charges when he recorded cops in a public park.
Now, two years later, scores of callers dialed city police spokeswoman Angelene Richardson over what they perceived as another infringement of a First Amendment right. One of the them was Miami journalism student Taylor Hardy, who recorded his conversation with Richardson and then posted it to YouTube. This upset Richardson very much. She claims she was never told she was being recorded.
Hardy refutes that claim: "I did," he said in a Facebook post. "I have it in the beginning [of my recording.]" But, he says he soon realized, he "messed up" the recording and had actually cut off that section of the call.
Boston Police then filed an application for a criminal complaint against Hardy, seeking charges against him for felony wiretapping. In Boston, any resident can file an application for a criminal complaint, which can bolster probable cause to launch a criminal case.
Miller was livid. He responded by blogging about the application, publishing both Richardson's phone number as well as her email address -- public information.
The Boston Police Department didn't see it that way. Calls inundated Richardson and the public information office, so the cops filed another application for a criminal complaint -- this time against Miller. They want to slap him with a felony count of witness intimidation, a charge that carries a ten-year prison sentence.
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"I've never spoken once to Angeline Richardson, who I'm supposedly intimidating," Miller told the Washington Post. "I've never sent her an email, never made a phone call." Nonetheless, she's listed on the above document as the alleged "victim."
The Boston Police Department didn't immediately return New Times' request for comment, but we will update this story if it does.
Send your story tips to the author, Terrence McCoy.