Tuesday, September 13, 2005

More Police Departments Using Taser Guns - WISCONSIN PUBLIC RADIO

I was quoted on Wisconsin Public Radio this morning regarding the purchase of additional TASER weapons in Madison. You can listen to the story with RealAudio by clicking on the link below. (Although, I volunteered to assist the ACLU in this matter, I do not work for them as the story suggests.)


Now that the state Justice Department has come up with standards for using stun guns, more police departments are getting the devices. Critics say the weapons may not be safe for suspects and may even be harmful to officer's safety in certain situations. Shamane Mills reports…

Listen to the story:


Running time 1:50

Friday, September 09, 2005

Judge lets rave arrests stand, ACLU vows to continue fight - FLINT JOURNAL

Here is another article about Flint, Michigan trial Judge Roberts's disappointing decision. In her holding she undermines the First Amendment rights to free association and free speech. It also violated the presumption in our system that guilt is individual, not collective and that we are responsible for the consequences of our own acts and not the acts of others.

As the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized “[T]he right to associate does not lose all constitutional protection merely because some members of the group may have participated in conduct …that itself is not protected.” NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware Company, 458 U.S. 886, 908 (1982). While the citations against those who have in fact committed offenses may be sustained, “mere association with [a] group - absent a specific intent to further an unlawful aim embraced by that group - is an insufficient predicate for liability.” Id. at 920-26. “[G]uilt by association alone without (establishing) that an individual’s association poses a threat feared by the Government, ‘is an impermissible basis upon which to deny First Amendment rights [such as the right to free association at issue here].’” Healy v. James, 408 U.S. 169, 186 (1982) (quoting United States v. Robel, 389 U.S. 258, 265 (1967).

Additionally, Judge Roberts states that one should be aware of the presence of drugs at a "rave" in other words saying that if you enjoy a disfavored type of music, here electronic music, the government ought be allowed to arrest you. Not only is the premise that "raves" have a higher incidence of drug use flawed by a study by the Dept. of Justice, but its also unconstitutional to penalize someone based on musical taste. See Ward v. Rock Against Racism, 491 U.S. 781, 790 (1989) ("Music, as a form of expression and communication, is protected under the First Amendment."); Reed v. Village of Shorewood, 704 F.2d 943, 950 (7th Cir. 1983 (rejecting effort to close bar because of playing rock music); Fact Concerts, Inc. v. City of Newport, 626 F.2d 1060, 1063 (1st Cir. 1980) rev'd on other grounds, 453 U.S. 247 (1981)(ban on rock concert is content-based restriction on speech); Cinevision v. City of Burbank, 745 F.2d 560, 566 (9th Cir. 1984).

Judge Roberts' decision has chilled a legitimate form of artistic and cultural expression. The decision is wrong on the law and a strike at the heart of the First Amendment.

Friday, September 09, 2005By Ken Palmer
kpalmer@flintjournal.com • 810.766.6313

FLINT - A judge Thursday refused to dismiss charges against dozens of people arrested on charges of frequenting a drug house during a controversial raid on a Flint nightclub in March.

Flint District Judge Ramona M. Roberts said the arrests did not violate the free speech and free assembly rights of those who attended the rave party at Club What's Next and were not caught with illegal drugs.

The ruling was a setback for the American Civil Liberties Union, which represents 93 people cited under a city ordinance.

Roberts agreed to stay the cases while ACLU lawyers appeal her ruling to Genesee Circuit Court.

City attorneys lauded the decision, saying it will help keep promoters from holding drug-based events in the city.

The ACLU vowed to fight the cases all the way through the court system, if necessary.

"Unless this decision is reversed, the police will be able to arrest anyone in a licensed nightclub or any music concert whenever a stranger lights up a marijuana cigarette," said Ken Mogill, who leads a team of 10 ACLU attorneys working on the case.

The March 20 party at Club What's Next, 2511 W. Pasadena Ave., had been promoted for months on the Internet and drew people from southern Michigan and other states, police said.

Flint police and the Genesee County Sheriff's Department arrested 130 people after undercover officers and civilian operatives bought Ecstasy, LSD and a psychedelic mushroom inside the club, they said.

About 17 people, including the promoter, were arrested on felony drug charges. The other partygoers were arrested on misdemeanor drug possession charges or for frequenting a drug house, a maximum 90-day misdemeanor.

Officers seized Ecstasy pills, LSD, the date-rape drug GHB and Ketamine, an animal tranquilizer.

ACLU attorneys argued the arrests violated the partygoers' rights to free speech, free association and free expression. They also claimed the city ordinance was vague and overbroad.

Roberts said the ordinance specifically bars someone from knowingly going into a place where drugs are being sold or used, even if it's a licensed establishment.

The culture of dance parties or raves means that people who attend them can expect there will be drugs, the judge said.

Police saw open drug dealing and use and had probable cause to arrest and search partygoers, she said.

Roberts said she will hold a separate hearing on the officers' conduct during the raid. Some partygoers claim they were subjected to inappropriate strip searches or illegal body cavity searches.

The city denies that officers conducted body cavity searches, which require a search warrant.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Motion to Dismiss Denied in ACLU Case Representing Dance Club Patrons Subjected to Mass Arrest and Searches - ACLU OF MICHIGAN

The trial judge in the Flint, MI, club raid issued a disappointing decision denying the ACLU's motion to dismiss.

September 8, 2005 - Press Release

DETROIT – The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan expressed dismay today that the motion to dismiss the charges against 93 young men and women arrested, strip searched and/or cavity searched by the Flint police was denied. All of the people, represented by a team of lawyers from the ACLU, were drug free when they were at a dance club last March where other patrons in the bar possessed drugs, but charged with “frequenting a drug house.

“The ACLU is committed to defending these clients as long as it takes to vindicate their rights. Arresting, strip searching and cavity searching drug-free patrons of a licensed nightclub is not only unconstitutional, it is frightening,” said Kary Moss, ACLU of Michigan Executive Director. “These young people simply did what thousands like them do all over the country, they went to a licensed and legal club on a Saturday night to listen to music, dance and socialize.”

On March 20, undercover officers from the Genesee County Sheriff’s Department and the Flint Police Department, entered Club What’s Next, a Flint dance club, to investigate possible drug activity. While the undercover officers reportedly bought drugs from certain individuals in the bar, nobody represented by the ACLU possessed drugs or drug paraphernalia. Nonetheless, a team of police officers raided the club and charged all patrons who did not possess drugs with a misdemeanor for “frequenting a drug house.”

“Unless this decision is reversed, the police will be able to arrest any one in a licensed nightclub or any music concert whenever a stranger lights up a marijuana cigarette,” said Ken Mogill, the ACLU cooperating attorney leading the 10 person legal team. “That’s absurd.”

During the raid, the dance club patrons were handcuffed and divided into two groups – males and females. Most men were taken into a men’s bathroom and searched, sometimes two at a time, and told to raise their shirts, drop their pants and underwear, and to bend over and cough. Some were told to put a finger into their anus. Those who were still handcuffed had their pants and underwear pulled down to around their knees by officers. One man was reportedly stripped on the side of the road after he had left the club.

Women were taken into a women’s bathroom and searched, at times in the presence of others. Some were told to lift their shirts and bras in front of eight male officers. An officer commented to one woman about the size of her breasts and asked if they were “real.” Several women have reported that they were subjected to cavity searches. One woman reported that the officer did not change the latex glove in between searching her vagina and anus.

“When did it become a crime for enjoying music at a legal venue?” said Gregory Gibbs, ACLU-Flint Branch president and one of the attorneys in the case. “Such a policy would have a tremendous chilling effect on free expression.”

In addition to asking the court to dismiss the charges, the ACLU told the judge in August of the egregious police conduct involved in these arrests, and asked the court to direct the arresting agencies to return to all records of each arrest, including arrest and description case, photographs and photographic negatives and any other records in this incident to each its clients.

This case is the latest of several incidents involving law enforcement misconduct that the ACLU is investigating. Most recently, a lawsuit was filed against the Saginaw County Jail for the egregious conditions where pre-trial detainees are forced to strip and are held naked in a segregated cell. Last year, the ACLU successfully resolved a class action filed on behalf of approximately 250 women who alleged privacy violations in the Livingston County Jail. The county agreed to implement policies to correct the longstanding privacy violations.

In addition to Mogill and Gibbs, other ACLU volunteer lawyers on the case include: Elizabeth Jacobs, Jeanmarie Miller, Glenn Simmington, Dean Yeotis, Chris Pianto, Matthew Abel and Michael Segesta.