Law Professor Exonerated of Charges Over Sharing of Police Body Camera Footage

Baton Rouge attempted to put a law professor behind bars after sharing publicly accessible body-cam footage that showed police strip-searching minors in public. Federal Judge ruled Friday that it was against the First Amendment.

That footage, originally shared with Reason, At a traffic stop in 2020, he was arrested. Baton Rouge Police Department officers cuffed Clarence Green, 23, and his brother Clarence Green (16), pulling their pants down on the street to search for drugs. Officer Troy Lawrence Jr. and then–Sgt. Ken Camallo then went to the house of the family, armed with guns, and searched it without a warrant.

After the news generated a lot of outrage, government officials focused on Thomas Frampton who was representing the Greens. He also disseminated clips that were already part of public record. During a May press conference convened to address the video, East Baton Rouge Parish Attorney Anderson “Andy” Dotson III notified Frampton that the government would seek to hold him in contempt of court, which carried up to six months in the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison.

For a federal court (so-called) to stop a state proceeding from continuing, it takes quite a bit. Younger Abstention usually precludes injunctions), but the court determined that there was sufficient evidence. In the end, Frampton against City of Baton Rouge:

It [City’s criminal contempt] Petition includes a rule to show cause why Frampton should not be held in contempt of the Juvenile Court … for releasing dash camera and body camera video footage taken by BRPD officers which allegedly documents misconduct by BRPD and captures the arrest and search of a juvenile….

Frampton was [exercising]He was exercising a constitutionally protected right by issuing a press release critical about BRPD, and sharing the BRPD Video via a media outlet that allegedly supports his criticism. This prong is easily met as this represents a classic example of exercising the right of free speech…. [And] a “major factor” motivating the City/Parish’s Contempt Motion was its desire to retaliate against Frampton for his posting the press release and Video on the media platform…. The Court finds the overwhelming evidence in this case shows that the City/Parish acted in bad faith and in retaliation against Frampton for Frampton’s issuance of a press release and Video which cast BRPD in a bad light….

First of all, it’s undisputed that months ago, before the City/Parish filed a Juvenile Court Petition and Contempt Motion, BRPD released the Video, which included F.B. being searched and arrested. to the United States Attorney without requesting or obtaining the permission of the Juvenile Court and without placing any warnings on the Video or placing any restriction on its use or dissemination….

The United States furnished the BRPD Video at Green’s lawyer Mark Upton (the Federal Public Defender) without warning or restriction. It did this six months before the City/Parish filed their Judiciary Court Petition. Undisputed is the fact that the BRPD Video in issue was made public as evidence of Green’s criminal proceeding at the least on November 20, 2020. This was done without any permission from the Juvenile Court.

Undisputed, Green’s criminal defence lawyer, Federal Public Defender, gave a copy of BRPD Video to Frampton’s Civil Attorney, without requesting permission nor imposing any restrictions. The fact that the Baton Rouge Advocate had a copy the Video by January 21, 2021 is not doubtful. This was four months prior to the City/Parish filing the Contempt Motion. A January 12th, 2021 Advocate article that detailed parts of Video published an article.

Undisputedly, Frampton informed the City/Parish lawyers that he had a copy the Video in March 2021 during settlement negotiations for Green’s civil case. The City/Parish was aware by March 25th, 2021 that Frampton had not obtained the Video through his subpoena request. This request had been withdrawn the day before. City/Parish lawyers voiced no question or concern regarding Frampton’s possession of the Video nor were they concerned enough to inquire or investigate how he obtained it….

City/Parish attorney Deelee Morris claimed in her testimony before this Court that she was unaware of the November 20, 2020, Green Motion to Suppress hearing at which the Video was made a part of the public record in that case…. According to the records, Ms. Morris’ sworn testimony in this case is contradicted directly by that of U.S. v. GreenDeelee M. Morris asked for the transcript of the Motion to Suspend Hearing hearing, four months earlier than the Contempt Motion. The City/Parish didn’t take action against either the BRPD or the Assistant U.S. Lawyer, nor the Assistant Federal Public Defender. They made the video public, without Juvenile Court permission. It was only on the morning after Frampton issued a press release critical of BRPD’s handling of the minor’s arrest, supported by the BRPD Video, that the City/Parish filed its Contempt Motion and then, only against Frampton….

A reasonable inquiry was not conducted before the Contempt Motion was filed. The City/Parish also failed to provide notice to the minor, whose rights it claimed to protect, or to the lawyer for the minor, Frampton, and an opportunity to speak before asking the Juvenile court Judge to sign the show-cause order. Ex parte.The fact that Art. 412(E)(3) of the Children’s Code requires both….

They claim that this desire to impose sanctions on defendants is not motivated by retaliation. Instead, it is driven by its interpretations of the Children’s Code. The Contempt Motion’s timing and circumstances, as well as the conduct of the defendants before and after it was filed, are all lies. First, the Defendants acknowledge that Frampton was the first person City/Parish attempted to sanction in accordance with this section of the Children’s Code. This is because it is “the first time that the Parish Attorney’s Office has encountered an unauthorised release of juvenile investigation material.” [and]This is also the first instance that the Parish Attorney’s Office has submitted a Juvenile Court Rule for Contempt. This explanation is utterly false because it was actually the City/Parish that had released the video. They did this without requesting an order from Juvenile Court. Furthermore, they did not comply with the rules for marking the Video and advising about dissemination. …

Moreover, if City/Parish had intended to enforce the Children’s Code and protect the minor’s privacy, it would have expected that the City/Parish took action against whoever first released the Video from BRPD. But, the City/Parish has never taken any action against BRPD and its staff for releasing this Video in a way that the Children’s Code was violated. They are seeking sanctions against Frampton for such an act. The hypocrisy of the City/Parish’s position is astounding….