Submitted by Joe
As Reported at the Village Voice
In the first jury trial stemming from an Occupy Wall Street protest, Michael Premo was found innocent of all charges yesterday after his lawyers presented video evidence directly contradicting the version of events offered by police and prosecutors.
In the police version of events, Premo charged the police like a linebacker, taking out a lieutenant and resisting arrest so forcefully that he fractured an officer’s bone. That’s the story prosecutors told in Premo’s trial, and it’s the general story his arresting officer testified to under oath as well.
But Premo, facing felony charges of assaulting an officer, maintained his innocence. His lawyers, Meghan Maurus and Rebecca Heinegg, set out to find video evidence to contradict it. Prosecutors told them that police TARU units, who filmed virtually every moment of Occupy street protests, didn’t have any footage of the entire incident.
Reviewing video shot by a citizen-journalist livestreamer during Premo’s arrest, [Maurus] learned that a Democracy Now cameraman was right in the middle of the fray, and when she tracked him down, he showed her a video that so perfectly suited her needs it brought a tear to her eye.
For one thing, the video prominently shows a TARU cop named Bosco, holding up his camera, which is on, and pointing at the action around the kettle.
When Premo’s lawyers subpoenaed Bosco, they were told he was on a secret mission at “an undisclosed location,” and couldn’t respond to the subpoena. Judge Robert Mandelbaum didn’t accept that.
Bosco claimed, after meeting with Prosecutors and Defense Counsel. straining credibility, that though the camera is clearly on and he can be seen in the video pointing it as though to frame a shot, he didn’t actually shoot any video that evening.
Even more importantly, the Democracy Now video also flipped the police version of events on its head. Far from showing Premo tackling a police officer, it shows cops tackling him as he attempted to get back on his feet.
After watching the video, the jury deliberated for several hours before returning a verdict of not guilty on all counts.
This isn’t the first time someone arrested during an Occupy Wall Street march has gone free after video evidence undercut prosecutors storyline and sworn police testimony. Photography student Alexander Arbuckle was acquitted in May after a livestreamer’s footage showed police weren’t telling the truth about his arrest.
“That was really important,” Maurus said. “Without that evidence, this would have been a very different case. There are many, many cases that don’t have so much video evidence to challenge the police version of events, but in this case, we did.”
For Premo, being found innocent affirms something even more fundamental:
“The biggest thing for me coming out of this,” he told the Voice, “is not being discouraged by the attempts of New York City to quell dissent and prevent us from expressing our constitutional rights.”
On Twitter and Facebook, Premo celebrated his not-guilty verdict by quoting the lawyer Elizabeth Fink: “There is no justice in the American justice system, but you can sometimes find it in a jury.”
Badges don’t grant extra rights, camera’s become the equalizer.