Police Intimidation Watch: New Haven Police Sued for Arresting Photographer, Erasing iPhone Video

A New Haven man jailed for recording New Haven, Connecticut police arresting three people filed a $500,000 lawsuit suit yesterday against the city and several individual officers for violation of his civil rights.

Luis Luna, a medical interpreter, was jailed in September, 2010 after he came upon police making the arrests, and began recording the incident with his iPhone. At the scene was Assistant Chief Ariel Melendez, who approached Luna, snatched his phone away, and ordered him arrested, according to a report in the New Haven Independent.

Luna’s iPhone was returned when he was released from jail four hours later, but his videos had been erased.

In his court appearance two weeks later, Luna contested the charges of interfering with a police officer. Prosecutors agreed to drop that charge on condition that Luna plead guilty to a charge of “creating a public disturbance,” and pay a $50 fine. Without legal representation to fight the more serious charge, Luna agreed to plead guilty to the lesser charge and pay the fine.

Police internal affairs investigators later issued a report charging the assistant chief who ordered Luna’s arrest and the erasure of the video with “conduct unbecoming an officer.” The investigators said that Luna had acted legally, and that the assistant chief had violated his rights, according to the New Haven Independent.

As a result of the internal affairs report, Luna was able to get his guilty plea for “creating a public disturbance” reversed. Assistant Chief Melendez has since retired, and the New Haven police department also issued a new policy to prevent officers from interfering with the rights of citizen journalists.

In his lawsuit, Luna charged Melendez and the City of New Haven with false arrest, violation of his First Amendment rights, and illegal seizure in violation of his Fourteenth Amendment rights. He is seeking $500,000 in damages and a declaration from the court that it is illegal for the police to arrest anyone for filming them while carrying out their duties in public.

Related:
Department of Justice Warns Police Against Violating Photographers’ Rights
Police Intimidation Watch: Cop Charged with Lying About a Photographer’s Arrest
Police Intimidation Watch: Detroit Police Apologize After Video Shows Them Violating Photographer’s Rights

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2 Responses to “Police Intimidation Watch: New Haven Police Sued for Arresting Photographer, Erasing iPhone Video”

  1. Randy Says:

    It’s sad and frustrating that police departments haven’t done a better job by now of educating their officers. It’s also sad that a lawsuit has to be brought to enact justice at the expense of tax payers.

    If it were me, I’d pay someone to retrieve the videos off the phone (as they are still there even though they were “deleted”) and use that in the lawsuit against this police department.

  2. Pat Jedwabny Says:

    If you don’t like corrupt police don’t ever come to Jasper County Indiana. The sheriff here will have you take the FINAL EXIT if he doesn’t kiill you first. I have been threatened with jail if I try and protect body, home, or property.
    I was told to silent all alarms even smoke detectors, and am not allowed to video tape them or off to jail. The state says they can’t help and most in federal also won’t cross Sheriff Risner? This part of the country answers to Money and no one else if you carry large amount of cash they will put you in jail and take the money. Just so happens the sheriff has a relative in realstate and loves when he makes people move or commit suicide thats one more for them to sell. Before you say it can’t be investigate my statements I do have written proof from the DA of threats and videos of the harrassment. Even tried to burn us in our home in July 2009 and still keep it going. They refuse to punish for laws that others have broken=causing suicide IC 35-42-2 & perjury IC 35-44-2-1