Still Without A Camera, One Week After Questionable Arrest

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.

Arthur Kohl-Riggs and Capitol Police officers Photo: Leslie Amsterdam

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.”

Chief Charles Tubbs and ADA Chris Freeman at the jury trial of the 6 remaining defendants of the Rotunda 13. Photo: Leslie Amsterdam

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.

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2 Comments on “Still Without A Camera, One Week After Questionable Arrest”

  1. Ed Green Crane March 20, 2012 at 10:31 pm #

    This is such a clear and egregious violation of Article 1, Section 4 and the 1st Amendment. If Chief Tubbs and the CP knew you were taking video of the trial and didn’t like how it might make them look, it is entirely reasonable to surmise that their motive was to try to suppress Arthur’s reporting – especially as there is no other logical or apparent proximate cause of their actions.

    Further, it seems equally valid to infer that this action’s main motive could have been to gain possession of Arthur’s video work product and that multiple CP officers and the Chief would have to have conspired to carry out the action.

    I think this warrants a good old-fashioned picket to very publicly pressure them to abandon their clearly illegal search and seizure.

  2. Jim Strathmeyer March 21, 2012 at 10:29 am #

    Dirty cops, everywhere. Not a single good cop to be found. They have eradicated all the good, honest people from the American police forces. Now they’re as corrupt as our government.

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