On March 23, 2012 Arthur Kohl-Riggs finally got his video camera out of Wisconsin Capitol Police custody. It was impounded on March 13, 2012 when Kohl-Riggs was detained for simply having the camera with him in the Assembly gallery. WI Capitol Police informed him at that time that the camera was considered evidence even though Kohl-Riggs was issued a non-criminal citation. He was later informed by Capitol Police that they were interested in viewing the footage contained on the camera as possible evidence. In any case, a search warrant would be required to gather evidence for a non-criminal citation, and the warrant was never obtained. He went without the use of his camera or the footage contained therein for 10 days.
Mr. Kohl-Riggs made an initial appearance in Dane County Circuit Court in front of Court Commissioner Todd Meurer, to enter a plea of Not Guilty and set a court date of April 20, 2012. Kohl-Riggs then proceeded over to the basement offices of the Capitol Police, where Detective Ed Bardon returned the camera. Kohl-Riggs asked if the contents had been tampered with, and Det. Bardon insisted that nothing had been touched. There seems to be no explanation for why the camera was confiscated to begin with, as there were no legal grounds for it to be impounded, and the footage, which at one point had been referred to as evidence, was not removed.
Mr. Kohl-Riggs has been arrested three times in the galleries of the Senate or the Assembly, and the charges from the other two incidents have already been dropped. He feels that citizens have the right to film their elected and public officials and that citizens should be able to document police officers arresting another citizen, as there is substantial legal precedent to support these activities. Kohl-Riggs will continue to assert his rights and he hopes that eventually the Wisconsin Legislature will follow state statutes and allow photography and filming of all public meetings and sessions of the Legislature, which is guaranteed under the Wisconsin Open Meetings law.
When questioned about the progress made towards this outcome during this most recent legislative session he responded: “I hoped that some progress would have been made during this legislative session but it’s gotten worse. If the same people control the Assembly after the recalls I doubt it will be any different, when we left they had black plastic covering the windows. Come on now. “