Camera Activist Jailed for Pulling up her YouTube Channel on Government Computer
A YouTube activist from Fort Worth, 55-year-old Carolyn Rodriguez, who recorded and posted a video of herself entering a county building then pulling up her own YouTube channel on the computer, was arrested on June 3.
Rodriguez, who operates a YouTube channel called Carolina in Fort Worth, was charged with breach of computer security.
Under Texas state law, "a person commits breach of computer security if he or she knowingly accesses a computer, computer network, or computer system without the effective consent of the owner. The offense is a state-jail felony — punishable by up to two years in a state jail — if the computer involved is owned by the government."
Rodriguez was conducting what she calls a First Amendment audit (or as PINAC calls them civil rights investigations), which are done by activists to test public officials on constitutional rights, primarily related to the First Amendment.
The investigations, or audits, are done by recording video in public spaces of things like government buildings (inside or outside), police stations and various branches of government officials.
When Rodriguez posted her video on her YouTube channel, she had around 6,600 subscribers, according to the Star-Telegram.
She now has over 7,000.
"This channel is dedicated to educating everyone on the rights they have and exposing those who want to take them. Never JUST OBEY!," her about section reads.
In the bizarre video that led to her arrest, titled "Fort Worth: I have a job!" and posted last week on Thursday, footage shows Rodriguez entering into the parking lot of the Tarrant County Facilities Management construction office in north Forth Worth, pointing out vehicles which she believes are undercover police cars.
"No signs that say ‘Do not enter’ so we’re going to go on and check it out," Rodriguez narrates in the video.
She then enters into the construction office, narrating to viewers that she plans to find out what her tax dollars are paying for inside of another building with "Tarrant County Sheriff's" painted on its door.
"Hello," she repeatedly calls out to an apparently empty building.
"Anybody here?" she says as she awkwardly wonders around in the building.
But she finds no one inside.
"Well, I guess we’ll just have to make ourselves at home," she says, before putting her feet up on a desk, then getting on a computer and pulling up her YouTube channel.
"Look, they already subscribe to me," she tells viewers.
Rodriguez then writes a note in capital letters, "CAROLINA IN FT. WORTH WAS HERE!" and walks out the door, giggling.
"Let’s go back to the car. They might have cameras here," she says.
"No they don't have cameras here or I would have already been busted, wouldn't I?"
After posting the video above to her channel on Thursday, Rodriguez was arrested on Monday.
After she left, employees returned to the officer to find Rodriguez's note on Thursday, according to her arrest affidavit.
A male employee whose computer she used to access her channel "reviewed the video of Carolina on his computer and watched several videos uploaded by her, including the one of her accessing his computer."
Employees say they noticed a Dodge Charger in several of her videos and saw a similar Charger parked down the street from the office then wrote down the license plate number.
However, police could easily obtain her plate through searching their system beforehand.
"Upon their approach, the Dodge Charger fled the area," the affidavit, written by detective Mark Smith with the Tarrant County Sheriff's Office, says.
Police say the car was later determined to be registered to Rodriguez's husband.
Her bail has been set at $750, jail records show.
Director of Facilities Management for Tarrant County David Phillips said the carpenter shop staff had left the building for another job site when Rodriguez stopped by to make the video.
"The doors are usually locked. My staff made an honest mistake, got in a hurry, and left one door unlocked," Phillips told the Star-Telegram in an email.
"They will be double-checking doors from here on out."
Phillips says his staff was also told to make sure shared computers are locked when not in use.
"If the young lady in the video was that interested in taking a tour of our carpenter shop, next time maybe she needs to give me a call and we can setup a guided tour," Phillips said, obviously upset about the incident.
"Our carpenter shop staff does great work. I am very proud of them."
What do you think?
Did Rodriguez take things too far and maybe veer off course of the purpose of her "audit?"
Or did Tarrant County authorities overreact?
Tell us in the comments below.