Massachusetts State Police Threatens Web Site Operator with Prosecution for Content
by Worcester Justice Calling, Sun Feb 19, 2006 at 06:25:24 PM EST
HEADLINE IN LOCAL PAPER:
Web site showing arrest OK at least till March 2
Richard Nangle | Worcester Telegram & Gazette | February 22
Worcester (Mass.) - A federal judge yesterday issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting the Massachusetts State Police from taking action against a Leominster woman for posting on her Web site a video of an arrest conducted by state police assigned to Worcester District Attorney John J. Conte's office.
State police had threatened Web site operator Mary T. Jean with a felony charge for posting the videotape at www.conte2006.com. The video shows troopers arresting Paul Pechonis at his Northboro home on Sept. 29 and then apparently conducting a search of the premises.
THAT WAS THE LEAD TO A NEWS ARTICLE ON SATURDAY. HERE IS SOME MORE BACKGROUND:
Last month she posted a video showing the police arresting and handcuffing a man IN HIS OWN HOME and then proceeding to swarm into his home without showing a search warrant.
A few days ago Ms. Jean received a letter from the state police ordering her to remove the video from her site or face "investigation and possible prosecution."
Ms. Jean went to Federal Court and on Friday obtained a restraining order against the Massachusetts State Police, preventing them from taking action against her for ten days. She is also suing the State Police (read the text of her suit here) for violating her right to free speech as guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution by trying to intimidate her.
This is shaping up to be an important First Amendment case because it pits the right of a solo web site operator to criticize public officials against the prosecutorial power of the State. At issue is not whether or not the making of the tape was legal, but whether Ms. Jean has a right to post it. The arguments is shaping up like this.
The heavy handed tactics the government was using to go after her are scary indeed.
According the newspaper article, "Federal Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV ruled the restraining order will be in effect until March 2. The matter will be taken up again in federal court here on Feb. 28."