Pennsylvania cops fail to get video removed through intimidation tactics
At the time, Erie Police officer James Cousins didn’t care who heard him mocking a murder victim and his grief-stricken mother.
The 40-year-old off-duty officer was loud and animated and most likely drunk as he also described how he punched and tasered a suspect.
And his drinking buddies, who might have been cops, could not get enough of his antic-filled, but profanity-laced monologue as they laughed in hysterics.
But just behind the group, in plain view of Cousins, sat a man who didn’t find it so funny.
Unknowingly to Cousins, Jeremy Orr was videotaping the monologue on his cell phone. He then uploaded the video to Youtube before departing back to Australia where he lives with his wife.
The video has since prompted police to suspend Cousins while an investigation takes place.
It has also prompted police to try and intimidate Orr’s family into convincing him to remove the video by threatening him with wiretapping charges.
Fortunately, Erie County District Attorney Brad Foulk has a little more legal sense than the Erie Police Department. According to the Erie Times-News:
“That is absolutely preposterous. I would never consider charging this person with a wiretap violation,” Foulk said Thursday. “The thought of charging the person who took the video for a wiretap violation is the furthest thing from my mind.”
If recent history is any indicator, wiretapping charges against people who film cops never go anywhere.
Last month, Palm Beach County prosecutors dropped all charges against Tasha Ford after police arrested her for felony wiretapping charges after she filmed them against their wishes.
And in recent years, at least three people who had been slapped with felony wiretapping charges after filming police against their wishes, had their cases thrown out of court, including one in Pennsylvania.
Although Pennsylvania is one of those states that require all persons to consent to having their conversation recorded, the law does not offer protection for people who do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy, as in this case.
But the actual law has never prevented cops from using intimidation tactics and false threats against people.
Orr’s brother told the Erie Times-News on Thursday that DeDionisio and Cousins visited him Tuesday at a construction site in Erie where he was working. He said DeDionisio told him the video could involve a federal wiretapping violation.
Cousins, near tears, implored him to take down the video because it could cost Cousins his job, the brother said. Cousins was in uniform and drove DeDionisio to the site in a marked squad car, he said.
Police have also asked Youtube to remove the video but they refused.
Orr said he posted the video because Cousin confirmed what he always suspected about some police officers.
“Good police officers have a really difficult job. What they’re entrusted to do is a tremendous burden,” he said. “But sometimes, with some officers, it’s really eroded into this ‘We’ll handle this how we want, and you will do what we say, and if you get in our way, we’ll roll over you.’ That’s what this guy felt like to me.”