from the one-step-forward,-two-steps-back dept
Back in January, I wrote about an exceptionally odd case in Minnesota in which a private citizen had his recording device liberated from his person by police after he recorded them patting down a bloodied man before putting him in an ambulance. What made it odd wasn’t what the police did initially, as that happens far too often these days, but in that Andrew Henderson was then charged with disorderly conduct and obstruction, with the paperwork describing what he’d done as a HIPAA violation. In case your common-sense-o-meter isn’t functioning today, that claim is bullshit, since HIPAA covers actions by healthcare providers in how they deal with patient information. In addition, the claim is at odds with another recording Henderson made of the officer that took his property, in which deputy Jacqueline Muellner claimed she was taking the device in as “evidence.” This “evidence” was subsequently deleted before Henderson’s recording device was given back to him, leading me to wonder when the case against Henderson would be tossed out to make room for one against deputy Muellner.
The answer, unfortunately, might be never. Ramsey County Judge Edward Wilson has denied Henderson’s attempt to get the case thrown out, saying that the first amendment doesn’t apply. He also refused to throw out the obstruction charge, despite the fact that the bench Henderson had been sitting on is roughly thirty feet from where the ambulance was parked.
Wilson, the judge, wrote in his order that “it is not necessary that one engage in a physical act to interfere or obstruct. It is sufficient if the defendant’s actions or conduct had the effect of physically obstructing or interfering with a member of an ambulance crew.”
Got it now? Obstruction doesn’t actually mean obstruction, it means either obstruction or doing something that makes professional police and EMS folk not able to do their jobs properly. This, apparently, includes recording them from thirty feet away, which puts into question exactly how many Minnesota police and EMS workers suffer from the kind of ADD my dog has when I take her on walks. I can imagine it now: EMS worker kneels in front of patient, EMS worker begins wiping away blood on patient’s face, EMS worker asks patient if he remembers his name, EMS worker cannot hear response because he’s run into heavy traffic chasing a squirrel.
And, while the disorderly conduct charge absolutely reeks of the police throwing feces at the wall to see what sticks, deputy Muellner ran away and retired to become former-deputy Muellner, with all of her benefits in place and without any formal inquiry into why she destroyed evidence so important that it was worth seizing private property.
However, while the news is all bad thus far, Henderson’s lawyers are promising to take this to trial, so we’ll just have to see if the judicial process has a bit more sense than judicial officers of the court.