Arthur Kohl-Riggs still doesn’t have his video camera. The Madison, WI video journalist was arrested on March 13, 2012 for simply having his camera with him in the Assembly gallery of the WI State Legislature. The police are holding his camera as evidence.
Yesterday, Kohl-Riggs’ attorney, Susan M. Crawford of Cullen Weston Pines & Bach, LLP sent a letter to Capitol Police Chief Charles Tubbs demanding that the camera be returned to Kohl-Riggs, since he was issued a non-criminal citation. She wrote, “The camera in no way constitutes evidence of the alleged disorderly conduct. There is no legal basis for the Capitol Police to have seized or to retain Mr. Kohl-Riggs’ personal property. I write to demand that Mr. Kohl-Riggs camera be returned to him immediately.”
Today Mr. Kohl-Riggs went to retrieve his property from the basement offices of the Capitol police, only to come home empty handed. He stated,
“I went to the Capitol police station today hoping to retrieve my camera. I went with a copy of the letter my lawyer had delivered to them the other day which explained that the police issued me a non-criminal citation and they had no authority to seize or hold my camera without a warrant.”
Coincidentally, the footage on the camera is something the Capitol police may want to keep under wraps. Immediately before his arrest, Mr. Kohl-Riggs had been videotaping testimony of six defendants on trial for “Resisting or obstructing a law enforcement officer”, a state Class A misdemeanor. The defendants peacefully refused to leave a protest at the Capitol on Aug 25, 2011. Charles Tubbs, Chief of the Wisconsin State Capitol Police was the prosecution’s only witness. Mr. Kohl-Riggs was one of only two people videotaping the court proceedings. Kohl-Riggs shot the footage with the intent to create and publish a video to highlight inconsistencies between Chief Tubbs’ testimony and the events in question. In light of the confiscation of Kohl-Riggs’ camera, the other videographer present, working for the conservative think tank the MacIver Institute, published the only video of the trial, video which was then picked up by Fox News.
Kohl-Riggs was planning on creating a video documenting the trial that night, but was unable to after his camera was confiscated. “By the time my property is returned, it will be too late. The news cycle will have run its course and there will be no chance to present an alternate, and more accurate, view of what happened.”
The First Amendment to the US Constitution protects the Freedom of the Press and the Fourth Amendment protects us against unreasonable search and seizure. Of course, our public servants and law enforcement officials are those entrusted with ensuring these rights are not violated. It appears that neither amendment is currently upheld at the Wisconsin State Capitol.