Civil Liberties

Happy Ending in One Part of the Austin Case of Antonio Buehler, Arrested for Filming Police


Details from the great site Photography is not a Crime:

Deliberations in the trial of Peaceful Streets Project founder Antonio Buehler lasted five hours before a Texas jury returned with a not guilty verdict Wednesday after an Austin police officer surprisingly testified on Buehler's behalf – most likely losing his job in the process.

Buehler was on trial for an incident that occurred on New Years Eve of 2012 where he witnessed Austin officers abusing the passenger of a vehicle during a routine DWI stop….

Buehler probed the officers with questions as he took pictures of the male officers holding the female passengers in a torture hold, known as the Strappado where her arms were cuffed behind her back and pulled upwards. Buehler can be heard in the video asking officers, "What are you doing?" Buehler described the hold as 'being meant for causing extreme pain."

Buehler was arrested and accused of spitting at one of the cops, Patrick Oborski. In the trial Oborski himself admitted it was just a little spittle in the course of Buehler asking him questions, not a full on contemptuous "spit in the face." Buehler has a civil suit against Oborski over the incident ongoing.

And Buehler had an unusual witness in his defense in this trial: a police officer.

Austin police officer Jermaine Hopkins…was told by APD brass that if he testified, he would lose his job by October 30th, which is today.

Hopkins testified anyway, telling jurors that Buehler had broken no law and that his fellow officers had violated his Constitutional rights by arresting him.

Hopkins has a hearing tomorrow to determine his fate with the department. He said he sent Buehler an email after seeing his case and wanted to testify out of concern that Buehler's rights were being violated.

Hopkins said in an interview with PINAC after the verdict that there are some good things about his department, but ulitmately he has no regrets and that he did the right thing by testifying. He also said if he could change anything it would be "accountability at the administrative level."

[UPDATE: Commenter Drake found a clip from 2013 showing Hopkins has his own illegitimate arrests in his background. Austin Police Department has not yet responded to a request for comment/clarification on Hopkins's claims; will update again when/if they do.]

Buehler will still be in court over this incident in the future, tho, with three additional charges and his civil suit still pending. He discusses his situation in this video interview:

Jacob Sullum reported on how Buehler's civil suit was allowed to go forward against the police's insistence that Buehler had no right to film them back in July. All of Reason's coverage of Buehler's case.