Civil Liberties

Update on Libertarian Videographer Arrested for Filming FIJA Action: Facing Possible Eight Years

|

I blogged about George Donnelly's arrest and release last week outside a Allentown, PA, courthouse for videotaping FIJA activists handing out information, but he was released merely into house arrest, and faces a possible eight years in jail for allegedly assaulting one of the federal agents who accosted him. This report from the "Photography Is Not A Crime" blog has some details, though Donnelly himself is not talking to the press about it right now:

He is specifically being accused of striking one of the officers.

Anybody who has seen the two previous videos where Donnelly was confronted by federal officers in front of a courthouse will find these charges hard to believe.

After all, Donnelly has a tendency to remain courteous even when getting threatened with violence.

Nevertheless, the federal government is charging him with assaulting, resisting, or impeding certain United States Government officers or employees, which carries a maximum sentence of eight years in prison.

The evidence, of course, lies in the videotape they confiscated from him. We'll be lucky if that ever makes the light of day.

The blog post also has a list of the annoying requirements of Donnelly's pre-conviction "house arrest," including

  • Defendant shall submit to electronic monitoring
  • Defendant must obtain a land line
  • Defendant may drive to food store three times per week, and must submit receipts to pretrial services, with prior approval of pretrial services
  • Travel restricted to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
  • Defendant shall surrender and/or refrain from obtaining or applying for a passport
  • Defendant shall surrender and/or refrain from obtaining any firearms
  • Defendant shall have no contact with co-defendants in this case, or individuals engaged in any criminal activity
  • Defendant may not publicize names, images or locations of officers or release information to anyone else

Donnelly's own blog.

NEXT: Reason.tv: EPA Rulemaking Matters Vid #3: Let Your Robotic Voice Be Heard, Let Your Robotic Voice Be Heard!

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. You’re asking for trouble passing out jury nullification literature right outside the courthouse.If the right case is going to trial you will likely be arrested.

    1. I wasn’t aware that handing out pamphlets on a public sidewalk was illegal under any circumstances. Perhaps you can cite the law that applies?

      1. There really isn’t one. That won’t keep them from arresting you, though.

        1. Then I’ll sue a become rich beyond the dreams of avarice!

          [maniacal laughter]

          1. What planet do you live on where you have to break the law to be arrested, and since when can you sue the cops for correctly doing their job? The arrests of FIJA people are probably ordered by a DA or judge. They can not be sued for their actions.

            1. My work is a warning, not a guide for government actors.

              1. You know what, George. I told these dumbasses to shoot some politicians every twenty years. We are not responsible for them not listening.

      2. Jury tampering statutes apply, if he was targeting jurors. Which he almost certainly was.

        1. FIJA activists don’t “target” anyone. They just offer literature to individuals entering the courthouse. Even if they were, the FIJA pamplet only informs jurors of their rights. It doesn’t tell them how to vote.

  2. Oh, my God, the great persecution of losertartians is beginning! It isn’t your numbers the state fears, it’s your tedious simplistic arguments. You’re boring everybody to death!

    1. {IGNORE}

    2. Is liberal Max defending this? Is there even a pretence that you are not a stalinist?

      1. Yes, Max is defending the bogus arrest. He takes delight in such actions, as it helps his party in the long run.

        1. I’m all for having DHS round up you fucking dangerous assholes. You’re trying to overthrow the rightfully-appointed current government, and you are dangerous and smelly and stupid doo-doo heads.

    3. Hey, there’s this Thomas Paine guy I keep hearing about who’s a real trouble maker. I think the feds need to start cracking down on folks like him too.

  3. How is this “house arrest” shit even flying? Can’t he just pay bail and be out?

    1. I’m just guessing but the Federales are likely just trying to intimidate Donnelly or at least make him as miserable as possible.

      It’s not as if they’ll actually be punished for putting him under house arrest and making him spend money to defend himself against frivolous charges.

      1. Totally agree, but I don’t understand how his lawyer isn’t screaming bloody murder about it.

        1. He has no lawyer yet.

          1. Really? They’ve arrested him, denied him bail, wrongfully charged him, threatened him with an eight year jail sentence, and he hasn’t gotten a lawyer?

            Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?

            1. He probably doesn’t have the money.

              1. Right to an attorney. ::cough cough:: Even a court-appointed attorney would be preferable to no representation, I would imagine. And where is the ACLU on this? Or the Institute for Justice? Someone should be looking into pro-bono work here.

  4. Byline, please, Mr. Doherty, or we won’t know who wrote this. Thank you.

  5. Defendant may not publicize names, images or locations of officers or release information to anyone else

    In other word “The first rule of Fight Club is: you do not talk about Fight Club.”

  6. Well good thing it’s not a sex crime, he could be facing life.

    Well, at least so far.

    … Hobbit

    1. Didn’t he use a camera? All porn is made using a camera, you know.

      Clearly a sexual deviant that the public should be protected from for perpetuity.

  7. Wow, thats just downright messed up dude.

    Lou
    http://www.web-anonymity.cz.tc

  8. The evidence, of course, lies in the videotape they confiscated from him. We’ll be lucky if that ever makes the light of day.

    I’m sure they’ll release some video, after the special-effects boys are done with it. I wonder if they’re going to try to hang the Lindbergh kidnapping on him, too?

    -jcr

    1. Remember – these are your usual cops and prosecutors not Dreamworks Studio. Expect them to hand it to Sam in HR (he videotaped his daughter’s birth and emailed the whole office a zip file of it – he’s the computer expert). He’ll use windows moviemaker to chop it up to make it look 10% less incriminating and 1000% more coveruping.

  9. Defendant shall surrender and/or refrain from obtaining any firearms

    Cue vigorous, principled 2nd amendment objection by rock-ribbed conservatives valorously stoking the fires of freedom in 3…2…1…

    1. Right Charles – because passing out pamphlets makes him both a flight risk and illustrates violent behavior? Oh, that’s right – he supposedly hit a cop. I’m sure you’ll be demanding to see that video in 3…2…1…

      1. I think my intent went over your head. No, I don’t support Donnelly’s arrest nor this list of activities he must and must not do. I’m nutty enough to say that IF he did strike a cop, the cop probably deserved it.

        What I wanted to point out was the inconsistency between typical RKBA conservatives who (rightly, in most cases) flip out whenever a new law restricting ownership rights is proposed or enacted and yet do nothing about the grindingly typical restrictions imposed all the time in the name of public (or cop) safety.

  10. I’ve got three posts up on my own blog with write-ups and (more importantly) some links. Since the comments page here won’t let me post more than 2 links, here is the most recent one. Obvs, you can backtrack from there:

    http://drunkenatheist.com/2010…..rges-case/

    George has a legal defense fund collection at http://donnelly.chipin.com/donnelly-legal-defense (which, unfortunately, does not seem to be loading for me right now). At the last time I checked, he was at roughly $1500.

    For those of you guys who are bleating ZOMG WHY NO LAWYER?!?!!?, I’d imagine that he’s RESEARCHING who is available, making appointments, etc., etc., etc. Trust me, George is far from stupid, and I’m guessing he doesn’t want to put his faith and future freedom in the hands of just anyone.

    If you want to help, please, for the love of god, send him some cash or talk about his case instead of doing the normal Reasonoid commenter bullshit. I know that it’s easier to snipe at one another, act as if you guys know what went down, and draw half-baked conclusions based on that, but he needs press and cash.

    1. Your blog is called Drunkenatheist and you expect to avoid “Reasonoid commenter bullshit?” There are some steps you could pursue to avoid this. I suggest changing your handle to something appropriate for a post-pubescent male. Then you need to have a good long talk with Gabe. While he’s telling you about Jews and niggers and WTC 7, kill him. And youtube it please.

      1. Sidd, wow, you’ve really showed me. Clearly, posting that comment was a better use of your time than donating $20 to the man’s legal defense fund.

    2. I have no idea what happened, however strongly agree with Steve Chapman how unlikely it is. George Donnelly likely accidentally was forced to step on the toe of someone’s shoe while he was being assaulted as part of the standard “restraining the arrestee” procedure. That is all that’s required in the absence of other charges, or when they are looking for ways to pile charges on.

  11. Oh, and here’s a write-up from Julian Heicklen:

    http://blogofbile.com/2010/05/…..#more-5171

    1. The bull dyke looked them over and decided Julian would be the easiest to manhandle, and said “The old one, he’s mine.”

      1. Is that a line from one of Sugarfree’s groundbreaking works of slash fiction?

      2. Oh shit, you’re right, the female guard’s looks are totally relevant here! Because if she were a 19 year old hot piece of ass, it would made state-sponsored terrorism okie dokie.

        Can we please just stay focused on the issue at hand? Pretty please?

        1. No we can’t, because this is Reason and making sure no women ever want to become libertarian is pretty much the commenters’ jobs.

  12. “He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people,…”

    1. Eating out our substance is our government’s favorite past time.

      1. God willing, we will prevail in peace and freedom from fear and in true health through the purity and essence of our natural fluids.

  13. “The evidence, of course, lies in the videotape they confiscated from him. We’ll be lucky if that ever makes the light of day.”

    http://qik.com

  14. Unless he’s a level 6 prior offender and there’s a ton of enhancement points, he’s not facing a possible 8 years. Probably he’s a level 1 or 2 prior offender, which means, given this is a Base Offense Level 10 offense and there are probably 3 or 4 points added for physical contact, he will serve under 2 years. Plus, if he’s in Zone C, he can serve half of the sentence out of custody.

    He can get 2 points removed for Acceptance of Responsibility, which would put him around Offense Level 12. Also, maybe the sentencing judge would take pity on him, and would depart downward from the sentencing guidelines. One can always hope.

    The statute has an 8 year cap to prevent points from piling up and to prevent him from serving an outrageous sentence.

    1. One day is an outrageous sentence for somebody who broke no laws, Joe. That ship has sailed.

      1. Federal agents say otherwise: to wit, that he assaulted them and made physical contact. Obviously one side is lying, but I’m not sure why we should assume that federal agents are the ones lying.

        1. Because Federal agents haven’t been known for their complete truth telling in the past.

        2. Although I am assuming the cops are lying, I’m more concerned with this little thing called presumption of innocence.

          1. Yeah, because “presumption of innocence” is such an important value here at Hit & Run, especially when scary Islamo-whatevers are said to have done XYZ. Please. You just don’t like federal agents when they arrest people who look like you.

            1. Aaaaand the race card is played by Joe Strummer.

            2. Less talk, more rock, Joe.

          2. Presumption of innocence doesn’t prevent you from being held for trial.

            Have you guys completely thrown your brains out the window?

            1. If he were guilty, don’t you think we’d have seen the video by now?

        3. Let’s see the tape.

    2. But can he roll for damage using a +3 Mace of Blood?

  15. Let us all give thanks to the Lord above for delivering us from that civil liberties violating fascist Bushitler and gracing us with the caring administration of the benevolent freedom loving prophet Obama.

    Meet the new boss …

    1. That is why we are screwed. DOJ and the federal LE agencies are a monster unto themselves. They operate the same way regardless of which party is in charge. It is bad enough that the Republicans let this stuff happen. But what is worse is that the very people who claim to be for civil liberties and the little guy (liberals) look the other way and ignore this shit when they are in power. People like the ACLU and the left Democrats in Congress ought to be up DOJ’s ass on this stuff. But whenever their side is in charge they find something else to talk about.

  16. So, a false arrest that leads to some physical contact with the false arresting officer is grounds for prison? We should be throwing the officer in jail for falsely arresting someone exercising their first amendment rights.

    1. Why would you assume it’s a false arrest? Maybe he assaulted federal agents, in which case he wasn’t exercising his first amendment rights. Is 2 years in prison really that stiff a sentence for striking or physically assaulting a federal agent?

      1. Why would you assume it’s a false arrest?

        Why would you presume the arrest is legitimate?

        Maybe he assaulted federal agents, in which case he wasn’t exercising his first amendment rights.

        Maybe they assulted him while exercising his 1st Amendment rights and like any sane person, objected and, dear god, resisted being manhandled for no legitmate reason, other than being a bunch of thugs with badges.

        Is 2 years in prison really that stiff a sentence for striking or physically assaulting a federal agent?

        Yes. Why should cops be given greater protection than orfinary citizens?

        1. Cops/federal agents don’t have the option to avoid a dangerous situation, that’s why.

          2 years (let alone 8 years) seems awfully excessive, though. Unless there was serious injury to the officer.

          1. Beside the point. Why is harming a police officer a greater offense than harming an ordinary citizen? Are their lives worth more?

            Besides, if you’ve learned anything here, cops *create* dangerous situations where there is none, with their caveman mentality towards respecting their authoriti’, more often than not.

      2. I don’t think anyone is claiming that he assaulted the agents unprovoked. If anything which could be called assault did happen, it was in response to their trying to arrest him for no just cause (he was doing things that clearly protected by first amendment). So yes, it is a false arrest, even if he is guilty of what he is charged with. The agents shouldn’t have come close to him in the first place.
        And even if he did assault an agent, one should be allowed to physically resist unlawful arrest or seizure of property just as much as you can a criminal without a badge.

      3. The real Joe Strummer must be so happy with your analysis.

  17. Defendant may drive to food store three times per week, and must submit receipts to pretrial services, with prior approval of pretrial services

    Does biking down to the 7-Eleven for a Slurpee count against this?

    Seriously, this whole episode is so f’ed up. Just for belonging to a scary group like FIJA.

    1. Pretty soon they’ll be on the SPLC’s list of militia groups.

      1. Oh, we’re on it, no problem there.

    2. Come to think of it, I’ve never seen or heard the phrase “food store” before. Grocery store, convenience store, produce mart, super market…never food store. Weird.

  18. From the PINAC link:

    The second time he was harassed, a different set of officers threatened to confiscate his camera.

    Both times, he responded politely yet firmly, insisting that he was not breaking any laws, which he wasn’t.

    So I’m looking forward to see how he responded in the video we have yet to see.

    If I were him, or any photograher going onto federal grounds, I would have my smartphone set to record and let the bastards have at it. When they come up with their usual bullshit song and dance about how their group of peaceful and non-confrontational officers were viciously assaulted by a single derranged lunatic, hit them with the recording.

    1. And a compatriot about a block away with telephoto lens to video the arrest to prove just who assaulted whom.

    2. Then get rammed for unlawful recording of a peace officer performing legitimate duties.

      I think such laws are bullshit as much as you guys do, but they do exist.

  19. hit them with the recording

    See no evil…

  20. They told me that if I voted for John McCain government thugs would arrest citizens for exercising their freedoms guaranteed under the first amendment … and they were right!

  21. Let me clarify a few points. George was not their to hand out literature. Julian Heiklen and Jim Babb were doing that. George was there to film, as a blogger and videographer, the other activist distributing literature. According to Jim, George was recording an arguement between Julian and a guard. An agent attacked and tried to wrestle the camera from George. George went to the ground and held the camera like a football. One of the guards, the woman arguing with Julian, reported that George struck her. I don’t know how he could have done this while clutching the camera on the ground like Jim describes. Audio interview here:

    http://freetalklive.com/guests/jim_babb

    George is under house arrest because he can’t come up with $50,000 to secure his release before trial. He’s not some young punk activist. He’s a family man with a wife and young son. He was attacked by federal goons who are now attempting to silence him through extortion, theft of his camera, and remarkably unconstitutional list of demands.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.