The Leominster Mom's Arrest Video

(cross posted on Retire Conte in 2006)

I got to see Paul Pechonis up close for the first time yesterday thanks to Boston's Channel 5. My exposure to him previously was through the babycam that captured him being handcuffed and led out of his home by uniformed and plain clothed State Police troopers.

Today's story in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette (read it here or here) about the legal implications of Mary Jean's battle with the State Police focuses on her rights as a web site operator to post the video. Yes, I think that's very important. But I think there is a larger issue.

Police showing up on one's doorstep to take a person away in handcuff's shouldn't be part of the American experience except in extreme cases.

The charge against Pechonis was posting comments on one of his Web sites construed as being threatening to a police officer and a judge. Don't get me wrong. I don't condone those kinds of comments, and I wouldn't make them myself. But I am very uncomfortable by the idea of law enforcement agents with an ax to grind getting to decide when a threat posted to an Internet site rises to the level of an arrestable offence.

It took me a while to get to this point of view. And I thank Mary Jean for having the guts to post Mr. Pechonis's videotape, in effect daring the State Police to try to stop her. They took the bate and now the discussion is out in the open.

It seems that Mr. Pechonis's relationship with the local police had some history. That included him filing a complaint against a Marlborough police officer for improperly threatening his son. Mr. Pechonis was making headway with that complaint through legitimate channels. Then all of a sudden the State Police show up at his door and take him away.

To top it off, the tape captures what any reasonable person would see as a highly invasive sweep of Pechonis's home WITHOUT A SEARCH WARRANT. I can understand the police wanting to make sure that a person being placed under arrest couldn't reach out and grab a weapon. But to go up the stairs and all around the ground floor AFTER MR. PECHONIS WAS ALREADY IN HANDCUFFS seems just plain wrong.

The deeper we get into this, the more it seems like the reason the State Police tried to go after Ms. Jean for posting the tape had less to do with their concern about her having violated a wiretapping law crafted to curtail organized crime and more to do with their wanting to cover up the fact that THEY THEMSELVES BROKE THE LAW in how they handled Mr. Pechonis's arrest.

The fact that Ms. Jean's Web site is essentially political in nature and is highly critical of the powerful district TO WHOM THAT STATE POLICE UNIT REPORTS makes the threatening letter Ms. Jean received all the more troubling.

Unwittingly, by going after Ms. Jean the police only proved the point about an out of control prosecutor that her Web site is trying to make.

The larger point is that bloggers and Web site operators everywhere should be alarmed at seeing one of their own - even though his postings may be at the fringes of civil discourse - being led away in handcuffs for something he posted. Allowing that to go unchallenged is to go down a slippery slope the ultimate consequences of which I shudder to contemplate.

Tags: Blogosphere, First Amendment, Massachusetts (all tags)


1 Comment

Re: The Leominster Mom's Arrest Video
Paul Pechonis is my uncle. & I think this was blown way out of proportion. And that's all I'm going to say. But then again, at the same time, I'm not really sure what happened.
by Alleysinkwink 2006-06-29 09:04PM | 0 recs


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