Op-ed Sent to Greenfield, MA’s local paper – The Recorder
Last week we sent the text below to Justin at The Recorder – Greenfield, MA’s local paper. We haven’t heard back from Justin yet, and The Recorder doesn’t post their op-eds or letters to the editor online, so we’re not sure if it has yet run.
Tto our knowledge, the only coverage of our unlawful arrests and charges by The Recorder – which had superb coverage of Emily Peyton’s case in 2007 (she too faced felony wiretapping, resisting and trespassing charges for engaging in the same activity) – was after our arraignment on July 2nd, 2010. And that write-up was unfortunately full of misinformation.
Hopefully Justin and his colleagues will realize the importance of informing their readers in Greenfield about the unaccountability thus far exhibited by their public officials.
Holding Public Officials Accountable is Praiseworthy
Openly recording public officials is not wrong or illegal. Statutes, court precedent and public opinion concur. Yet that has not prevented Assistant District Attorney Jeffrey A. Bengston from wasting taxpayer dollars pursuing felony wiretapping charges against indie-journalists Adam Mueller and Pete Eyre, who were openly recording last July when attempting to bail out a friend at Franklin County Jail.
Perhaps Bengston is unaware that the same charge levied against Emily Peyton for videotaping an antiwar protest in Greenfield was dismissed because she had not been recording in secret. Or that Simon Glik and Jon Surmacz – both charged with felony wiretapping elsewhere in the Commonwealth – were vindicated based on the open way that they too had been recording.
As Mueller explained, “a camera doesn’t lie and it’s the most effective way to hold individuals accountable.” Yet he and Eyre were arrested, held overnight in jail and have thus far been ordered to appear in court on four separate occasions despite the fact that even the arresting officers acknowledge that the pair was openly recording.
In the eight months since their unjust arrests, Mueller and Eyre have sought accountability. Faxes, emails and well over 100 phone calls to the prosecutor, police department and mayor’s office have been ignored. They pair even reached out to Greenfield-native Penn Jillette, who in one segment about their situation, noted that “They’ve done something really really wrong in arresting those guys.”
Two weeks ago Mueller and Eyre traveled to Greenfield to attend the monthly meeting of the Public Safety Commission – tasked with police, fire and EMS oversight. Budget deficits were a common concern, which Mueller highlighted during the public comment time, drawing parallels between Peyton’s case (charges dropped) and he and Eyre’s identical situation (charges still being pursued).
How many taxpayer dollars have been spent pursuing something that has only one inevitable outcome – dismissal? How many more taxpayer dollars will be wasted before Greenfield public servants are accountable and drop the charges?
Bengston would do well to listen to Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Margaret Marshall, who penned that: “Citizens have a particularly important role to play when the official conduct at issue is that of the police . . . Their role cannot be performed if citizens must fear criminal reprisals when they seek to hold government officials responsible by recording, secretly recording on occasion, an interaction between a citizen and a police officer.”
For more visit: http://CopBlock.org/Greenfield