Give state prosecutors in Miami Dade County, Florida credit for moxie, if not for unintentional Orwellian humor.
Photojournalist and First Amendment activist Carlos Miller, who is facing charges for resisting arrest during a police raid on an Occupy encampment last January 31, says the Miami Dade County prosecutors have offered to drop charges against him–if he agrees to produce a video promoting the county.
“It’s ironic. Mr Miller was arrested because he was not recognized [by authorities] as a member of the media,” says his attorney, Nicolas Recoba. But now they are willing to drop the charges if he uses his media skills to help Dade County, Recoba explains.
The offer was made as part of a so-called pre-trial diversion program, which gives those charged for the first time with misdemeanors a chance to clear their records in exchange for community service.
Miller wrote on his blog, called Photography Is Not a Crime, that he thought it was a joke when Recoba first told him about the prosecutor’s offer. “I rejected the offer. But only after I stopped laughing,” Miller wrote.
He’s determined to clear his name at a trial instead. He added that he has no problem with doing video work for the county, “but that would have to be a separate paid assignment unrelated to my case.”
Miller was arrested on the night Miami Dade County police officers broke up the Occupy Miami encampment. He went to the scene to document the police action, and he remained there as police broke ranks after protesters left.
At that point, a police commander ordered officers to arrest Miller for refusing the order police had given to protesters to disperse. Miller says he was singled out, because no other journalists were arrested.
As police took him into custody, he left his video camera running and recorded his own arrest. Police seized the camera and erased the video card, but Miller managed to recover the data a few days later.
He and his attorney are convinced that all the video evidence–including police videos and Miller’s own recovered video file–exonerate him.
“The state’s evidence does not support the charges against Mr. Miller,” because there’s no sign that Miller resisted arrest, Recoba says. He adds, “The state has extended an offer [plea bargain] because they want to close the case.”
Recoba surmises that police officers arrested Miller out of frustration. “They were upset by the activists. They had to take someone. It was a mistake[ to arrest Miller] and now they’re having difficulty letting go.”
The Miami Dade County State Attorney’s office told PDN that the prosecutor handling Miller’s case was on vacation. When asked if anyone else in the office could comment, the administrator hung up the phone.
Miller says that if he is able to win acquittal on the criminal charge, he plans to sue Miami Dade County police for deleting his video footage, in violation of his constitutional rights .
Miller has been arrested twice before. The first time, a conviction was overturned on a appeal, and the second time, the charges were dropped. “I am a rabble rouser. I won’t deny that,” Miller told PDN earlier this year. “But my point is not to draw attention to myself. It is to raise awareness, and get changes [in police conduct toward journalists.]…I want to get rid of the stigma of taking pictures in public. We are not terrorists.”
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