Anthony Graber is a former Air National Guardsman who has never been arrested – until a few months ago. He fully admits to speeding on his motorcycle with no helmet, and knows that he should pay the price for that. Should that price include having a gun pulled on him by a plain-clothes officer? Does it merit having six state troopers raiding his parents’ house and taking four computers early the next morning? Should it warrant being charged with a felony and being threatened with five years in prison? These are the things that actually happened to Mr. Graber – all because he dared to record the incident with the helmet camera that was already running before he was pulled over.
The Maryland State Police were so outraged at Anthony for posting the video on his YouTube channel that they did all of the above – and more. Police arrived at his folks’ house at 6:45 AM on a weekday and detained his entire family for more than an hour while they rummaged through their personal belongings. Graber’s sister wasn’t allowed to leave for school, and his mother wasn’t able to head to work. The search warrant was signed by some cockamamie judge – whose signature doesn’t even appear on the paperwork. Graber was told that they don’t show up in order to protect the privacy of the judge. Huh… what about the privacy of the family who did nothing wrong?
The First Amendment allows us to photograph police officers in a public setting. Numerous court rulings have determined that over the years. The Maryland State PD apparently decided to take a different tactic. They charged Anthony with “wire-tapping” in an attempt to crack down on people video taping them in public.
During the March incident, Graber sped past the unmarked police car. Officer Uhler claimed that Anthony was popping a wheelie at the time while traveling 100 mph. Interestingly enough, Uhler was only visually estimating the speed of the bike. He didn’t have a radar gun which means the ticket likely wouldn’t have even held up in court. If you watch the video, you’ll notice that not a single wheelie was popped at any point in time.
Graber also admits to speeding past a marked car. However, he never heard any sirens behind him and even at one point in the video where Graber looks back, the only car behind him is Uhler’s unmarked car with no lights. That was when Graber was already exiting the interstate. When he came to a complete stop behind the other cars at the exit, Uhler cut him off and hopped out of his car with a gun drawn, never flashing a badge and not identifying himself as an officer until several seconds later.
Officer Uhler never stated in his report that he had drawn a gun. Isn’t that only supposed to happen when an officer feels his life is in danger? The report only mentions a citation for traveling 80 mph in a 65 mph zone and a “strange looking object on the operator’s helmet that was later realized to be a video camera.”
TEN DAYS LATER, Uhler discovered the video on YouTube. It was only then that he issued an arrest warrant against Graber stating that “Graber did not inform Tfc. Uhler that he was recording him by video or audio, thus violating criminal law 10-402(b).” He also added charges of reckless driving and negligent driving.
After his home was raided and he turned himself in to the authorities, Graber spent 26 hours in jail. The judge who released him on his own recognizance stated that it didn’t appear he violated the wiretapping law. Maryland requires there to be an expectation of privacy in order to make that charge valid.
What are your thoughts? Do you believe that this police officer – and others like him – are working a little too hard to keep from being videotaped during a routine stop or an arrest? What, exactly, do they think they need to hide?