War on Cameras

Illegitimate "No Photography" Arrest Leads to $1.2 Million Lawsuit Victory


Reason has long been on the forefront of stories about your right to film and take photographs, even if cops or other officials might not like it. Alas, cops and officials aren't reading Reason often enough.

Case in point, a $1.2 million in compensatory damages from Suffolk County awarded this week to Nancy Genovese for what she says she suffered at the hands of Suffolk County police, after being arrested essentially for taking pictures of a military helicopter.

Details from Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

[Genovese's lawyer] Long Island civil rights attorney Frederick Brewington. "There is no reason to treat another human the way they treated her."

He claimed Suffolk County sheriff's deputies humiliated Nancy Genovese after arresting her in July 2009 while she took photographs of a decorative helicopter on display outside the Gabreski Airport Air National Guard base in Westhampton Beach, on eastern Long Island. A deputy sheriff allegedly said he would arrest her for terrorism to make an example of other "right wingers," according to Brewington.

"Ms. Genovese was subjected to a level of abuse because they did not share the same political views as she did and saw this as an excuse to deny her even the most basic civil rights," said Brewington.

The jury award Thursday was for compensatory damages. It will now consider punitive damages.

A spokeswoman for Suffolk County declined to comment, citing the ongoing litigation.

Genovese, 58, of East Quogue, was jailed for four days before posting $50,000 bail. The charge, on a misdemeanor count of criminal trespass, was dismissed in November 2009.

It's a shame that taxpayers have to be on the hook for the criminal actions of their "servants" but it's still good when citizens let police know that there will be some consequences for rights violations.

A very elaborate account, from Genovese's perspective, of what she says she suffered from the cops can be found on the Personal Liberty website back in May 2012. It is very based, she claims, in animus toward her for being perceived as a "right winger" and "teabagger."

Details from a Murtha and Murtha law firm account from when the arrest was fresh:

Nancy Genovese stopped her car on the side of the road across the street from the airport in an area that is open and accessible to the public, and crossed over the road to the airport entryway that is also open and accessible to the public to take a picture of the helicopter display. While still in her car, she took a picture of the decorative helicopter shell with the intention of posting it on her personal "Support Our Troops" web page.

As Nancy Genovese was preparing to drive away, she was stopped and approached by Robert Iberger, a lieutenant with the Southampton Town Police. Lieutenant Iberger demanded to know why she was taking photographs. Nancy showed the lieutenant her camera, but Lieutenant Iberger grabbed her camera and handled it "without care". In an attempt to prevent the lieutenant from damaging the camera, Nancy removed her memory card, which Lieutenant Iberger confiscated. To date, Nancy's memory card still has not been returned to her.

Iberger called the County sheriff's office on her, and then other agencies arrived:

Nancy was questioned on the side of the road for approximately five to six hours, from about 6pm until midnight, denied food or water, and denied the opportunity to use a restroom, all without having received any warnings as to her rights….

 earlier that day Nancy had been to the local shooting range with her rifle practicing her hobby, target shooting. During the first hour of questioning, Lieutenant Iberger searched Nancy's vehicle, without her consent, and came across her unloaded rifle, which Nancy was legally carrying, in a locked case….

Using force, Lieutenant Iberger pushed Nancy Genovese when she objected to the seizure of her rifle. Deputy Carlock taunted Nancy, asking in a disparaging tone, "You're a real right winger, aren't you?", and stating in words or substance that she was never going to see her rifle again.

While in custody, her family claimed, over five thousand dollars in cash she had on her, intended to pay private school tuition, disappeared from her purse. She had a fresh leg wound they did not care for in custody, leading, she claimed, to a staph infection. She also said she was placed for no good reason on "suicide watch," forcibly restrained, and injected with drugs.

The jury in her eight-day case considered her story credible enough for the hefty compensatory damage award, and again all charges were eventually dropped.

Hat tip: Mark Sletten

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  1. I know it sucks that the cops will not be personally paying this but this is still a very good thing. Every time there is one of these judgements, it becomes more settled law that cops can’t arrest people for this. And the more settled law it is, the more likely it becomes that courts are going to start holding them personally liable like they do for other violations of settled law.

    1. the more likely it becomes that courts are going to start holding them personally liable like they do for other violations of settled law.

      They do what now?

    2. It’s a shame that taxpayers have to be on the hook for the criminal actions of their “servants” but it’s still good when citizens let police know that there will be some consequences for rights violations.

      John, unfortunately most of the pigs have immunity if they are carrying out official government business. IMHO that should be denied when the pig is acting unlawfully. In this case the undeniably illegal search and confiscation of her property should be grounds for loss of immunity for those actions.

      The local citizens should also be reminded of this incident when the sheriff or whomever is up for election again.

    3. it becomes more settled law that cops can’t arrest people for this.

      Settled law is irrelevant. All it means is there will be more judgments, but the arrests will continue at fever pitch.

  2. Dumb ass cops OT,did anyone else see the report of NYC cops planting guns and using made up informants? It’s on Radley’s blog todat

  3. It’s a shame that taxpayers have to be on the hook for the criminal actions of their “servants” but it’s still good when citizens let police know that there will be some consequences for rights violations.

    That’s nice, but this settlement will be a buried line item in the budget somewhere, and there is still no correlative link between police thuggery and municipal payouts.

    At the very least, there should be billboards around town announcing the cost to the taxpayer of cop malfeasance.

    1. With photos of the asshole involved.

    2. and there is still no correlative link between police thuggery and municipal payouts.

      Chicago maxed out its multimillion dollar yearly budget for police misconduct in how many months, and how many officers were fired?

      1. I believe it’s a negative number. I believe Chicago hired more officers.

  4. Every time there is one of these judgements, it becomes more settled law that cops can’t arrest people for this.

    Tell that to the Supreme Court.

    1. Yep, the only ‘law’ that settled is that cops can do this because they have immunity from these types of ‘minor errors’.

  5. It’s a shame that taxpayers have to be on the hook for the criminal actions of their “servants” but it’s still good when citizens let police know that there will be some consequences for rights violations.

    Were you dropped on your head as a baby? There are no consequences for the police. They have no reason not to go right on arresting people for whatever bullshit reason they want. Only a fool could think they won’t.

    1. It’s true. The sheriffs won’t even get a formal reprimand on their records as a result of this.

  6. Holy shit, those are some totally out of control cops.

    Have any of the many involved in this, from arrest through release from jail, been charged or even disciplined?

    1. It would appear that her story is much worse than a confiscated camera and some insults.

      That sheriff’s office deserves some “terrorist action”, based just on that article alone.

      1. I love the fact that the city was three months late in responding to the lawsuit, but got an exemption from the judge.

        How many peons can expect that nice of a treatment?

    2. How arrogant and out of control must it make you to know that you can illegally arrest someone, abuse them, stick them in jail for four days, make it so they need a $50,000 bail to get out, and then face not a single consequence?

      Yeah, you BET they are out of control. There’s literally nothing to rein them in.

  7. At some point, don’t know when, there will be a tipping point and the cops and their groupies won’t like what comes next one little bit.

    1. I’m getting to the point where I’m pretty sure that at some time in the near future, there’s going to be a Bloody Sunday-like event at a protest. Nothing else will happen to the officers involved, of course (just like nothing happened to the British soldiers involved in Bloody Sunday), but it’s going to lead to a whole mess of shit on a much bigger level than what we’ve seen recently.

    2. That will only come when almost everyone personally knows someone who has been abused by the cops. It’s coming, but thinking about just how bad it’s going to be by then is depressing.

      It’s amazing just how many people can hear stories like this and say ‘well, if they weren’t doing anything wrong…’

    3. I think it is still a long ways off. Plus we saw what happened when the FEDs tried to their shit with a large group of armed, entrenched, and somewhat affluent protesters. They backed down in the name of pants-shiting safety.

      I think the turning point comes when the Clive Bundy Ranch part 2 includes artillery.

      1. I think it’s coming sooner than later. When shitbags like Hannity are complaining about pigs, you know it’s not far off.

    4. I wouldn’t bet on it. As long as Boobus Americanus has their McDonalds and their Dancing With The Stars and their football games and their Entertainment Tonight they will remain content in their stupidity.

  8. These lawsuit victories are not victories for anyone but the winners of the lawsuit.

    The tax payer picks up the tab, and there is absolutely zero effect on the cops. Therefore, their thuggish behavior will continue unabated.

    1. $1.2M will get the county’s insurer’s attention, which will get the county’s attention, and then the sheriff’s attention. Puny little $50K cases are just the cost of doing business, but millions are different, especially for counties, which usually don’t have the big city budgets or tax base.

      1. They’ll just raise taxes. Problem solved.

        1. Yep. Nothing that a property tax increase or any other dreamed up out of thin air tax won’t solve.

          I want someone to show me an actual example of where this has ever made one bit of fucking bit of impact and then we’ll talk.

          1. Chicago hit some new record and the Chicago newspapers reported it; they seemed a bit shocked.

            It can’t keep rising forever. Therefore at some point governments will notice it.

            1. Detroit’s government hasn’t even noticed it yet.


      1. I eagerly await stories of shootouts between the Egg Cops and some hard-boiled smugglers.

        Of course the yolkeltarians will side with the cops.

        1. ^Eggzactly!

          1. I wonder if the smugglers will use shell companies to hide their money.

  9. That story is…just bizarre. There had to have been some preexisting bad blood between the pigs and this woman.

    1. There does?

      Of course they may have known who she was for some reason and relished the chance to fuck with her.

      Maybe they had seen her on the range and being the type of people they obviously are took exception to her daring to have such a hobby.

      1. Even that would make sense. All I’m saying is that there’s absolutely no way that even the stupidest pig would think that some 58-year-old white woman is a literal terrorist.

        Anyone live on Long Island? How stupid are the pigs there, really?

        1. Well they’re community college grads who have managed to pass a civil service exam so that doesn’t select for the brightest of minds.

        2. I could easily see Long Island pigs being terrible. Like most of southern NY State, there are far, FAR too many cops and they get bored and abusive easily. Also, many cops just outside NYC probably have tried and failed to become NYPD and might be bitter scumbags who feel an even greater need to show their power over others.

          1. Based on their behavior how hard is it to become NYPD anyway? If you can’t make that standard than I could see being a whiny bitchtard towards others.

            1. Well, think about it this way: there can only be so many new cops each year going through the academy. If you are from NYC or the surrounding area, what would you rather be; on a police force that is 35,000 strong and makes you a powerful person in one of the biggest and most important cities in the world, or on a police force just outside the city that is maybe 20-50 strong and gets you jack shit within NYC?

              I would imagine most of them wanted to be NYPD and failed to make it in the selected group. It’s not even that their standards are high, it’s that they are only going to accept so many people, and a bunch of those accepted are probably legacies (relatives already NYPD) or grew up and live in the city.

              1. So they are dissapointed at losing the biggest asshole contest?..(.outside of boston)

              2. Legacies? Jesus, hereditary positions in the City Watch. Fantastic.

        3. Have you read a left leaning blog in the last 6 years?

          Hell even longer. Leftists think Republicans are evil and Tea Party people are literal terrorists.

          Not just figuratively. Literally.

          This cop was presumably a leftie, which is not surprising, given their union ties.

  10. If the subjects of a given polity had to pay up on these things directly you might see a change.

    If all property owners receive a bill in the mail for x amount (total judgement/number of property owners) plus a description of what the bill is for that would cause a stink even if the cost per was only a few bucks few people are going to be sanguine about paying the thing.

    1. It should at least come out of the police budget. All departments. Kinda like one dude messes up, everybody does laps.

  11. I have to go through annual training regarding terrorism and government buildings, and one thing they stress is that photography is a no-no. Remember that everyone is guilty of terrorism until they prove themselves innocent. So when anyone takes pictures of a federal building or its surroundings, unless they’ve got a damn good excuse like making a Hollywood movie or something, then they are to be treated as someone taking pictures for terrorists. These officers were just following their training.

    1. Photographs were taken.
      Photographers were taken.

  12. Jedediah may be the coolest name EVAH! And even more so for a hot chick.

  13. Except the guy who froze to death.

  14. This makes no sense at all dude. Wow.


    1. For once you’re right.

  15. And the cops involved could care less.

    They will not personally have to pay anything and will not lose their jobs or be held accountable for it in any way.

    In short they will have no incentive whatsoever to keep right on doing that sort of thing.

  16. For me the most troubling aspect of the story is that the cops saw her as ‘a real right-winger’. The way that is said gives me the impression that cop has never seen one before, it is a mythical creature in his mind, and a very dangerous one. He has been indoctrinated with the propaganda that ‘teabaggers’ are angry, dangerous
    people bent on violent revolution.

    Nevermind that he has never seen such a beast. Nevermind that no one he knows has seen one. Nevermind that there are no incidences of violence or call to revolution at any TEA party rallies or that any members have engaged in such. To him she really is a terrorist. Here we have a lefty who, no matter how much information he has, cannot draw a sensible conclusion.

    In their minds this justifies treating her as less than human. They punish her sadistically because of political beliefs they project on her. They torture her physically and psychologically and felt justified in doing so.

    This is the banal evil that has given us every dungeon, auto-de-fe, every rack, every oven, every mass grave, every pogrom, and every famine on a small scale right here in the land of the free.

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  18. It’s a shame that taxpayers have to be on the hook for the criminal actions of their “servants” but it’s still good when citizens let police know that there will be some consequences for rights violations.

    I’m… confused here. What, exactly, are the ‘consequences’ being felt by the perpetrators of this action? I understand that someone in an accounting department at the county offices will be wiring or writing a cheque. But what were the consequences felt by the people, the sheriff’s deputies that actually conducted the arrest and drummed up the charges? They lose their jobs? Any figures come out of their checkbooks? Tell me that had to write something 100 times on the blackboard. Apologize? Nope? So you’re telling me they’re back at it, right now and probably aren’t even aware this judgement occurred.

  19. The police departments are funded through extortion. Try refusing to pay your taxes and watch these boys in blue confiscate your property by orders of the politicians. Next, they benefit from “qualified immunity” just like the politicians.

    There will never be accountability because a totalitarian police force is shielded from market consequences. The consumers can not pull their funds, and punish the bad economic actors. Any opposition, revocation of consent, or refusal to obey orders which violate natural law will be met with property confiscation, and imprisonment.

    The private production of security is essential to liberty. Any “good cop” would have no problem being subjected to the voices of the consumers in a free market. If they screw with someone’s liberty, they might not make it home.

  20. These cops reading Reason, most unlikely. Otherwise, it strikes me that they should be fired, then criminal charges should be brought against the entire mob of “police” who were involved. In a case such as this,lessons need to be taught.

  21. If there is a stink, we must investigate. We must gather evidence because evidence makes us see the truth. Is this the stink of a criminal act, or is it a turd in a bag?

    I see cops who lose their way every day, and I don’t like that,
    because their ambivalence is contagious. They infect those around them. They’re like maggots. Where you find one, you find a nest.
    — Robert De Niro in Cop Land (1997).

  22. Sweet. Let’s hope more rewards like this eventually get cops to understand that photography is LEGAL.

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