After nearly 10 months since PINAC correspondent Scott Shimek was falsely arrested and charged with obstruction and resisting arrest in Washington, a jury of his peers came to the same logical conclusion we all did after watching the video.
Not guilty on both counts.
Shimek’s arrest took place in July 2014 when he stepped out of his apartment after noticing several King County sheriff’s deputies in his neighborhood, appearing to be searching for somebody.
He had his camera and began recording, but was immediately told to move down the street. First by a deputy standing next to a patrol car, then by a group of deputies walking down the street with a dog.
He began walking down the street, complying with their orders, but continued recording in the direction of the cops with his camera over his shoulder, which angered a deputy named Hall who was standing by another patrol car.
“You’re under arrest,” the deputy says.
“For what,” Shimek asks.
“For obstructing,” the deputy says.
“I was walking away,” Shimek says.
“You didn’t walk away fast enough,” the deputy says. “Now get down on your knees.”
Luckily Shimek has experience recording police and kept his camera on throughout the entire incident. That is, until he was in handcuffs, and the arresting deputy shut off the camera.
The audio and video that he captured of the overzealous police response to his presence was likely the key to his acquittal. However, the facts of the case did not stop the King County prosecutor and her men in blue from painting Shimek as a “nuisance” to police officers for having a few “incidents” in recent history.
Deputies on the witness stand insinuated that his presence, along with his camera at the scene that evening in July, prevented them from finding their suspect – a convenient story indeed. Maybe if the officers were not so concerned with a citizen pointing a camera at them, they might have had a better chance at catching their guy.
With video evidence in hand, Shimek was surprised that the prosecutor even decided to bring charges against him, especially after the prosecutor waited five months after his arrest to bring them forward. Nonetheless, he was confident it would be an open and shut case in his favor.
That was until several cops took the stand to testify against him. When the arresting deputy took the stand, he was asked why he drew his taser, and the deputy’s response was nothing less than disingenuous.
The deputy said, under oath, the reason he drew an active taser on me was because he was using it as a flashlight, said Shimek
There was NO way I saw this case going bad…until today. I could not believe it
A uniformed officer of the law does surprisingly still hold quite a bit of weight to the average American jury, so Shimek had every right to be concerned. Shimek learned first hand that certain types of officers will deny facts and evidence while under oath and penalty of perjury, and look you straight in the eyes and smile. Facts were not as important to the prosecution in this case as the emotional driven testimony used to capture the hearts of the jury, not their logic.
Shimek also learned that the negative stigma often applied to public defenders did not apply in his case. He referred to his state afforded representation as a ‘tiger,’ who struck when the time was right, destroying the states narrative and turning the tide back in his favor. He had high praise and respect for Anna Murray, Public Defender, Kirshenbaum & Goss Inc., P.S.
In the end, video does not lie, and the jury of six spoke loud and clear when they declared Shimek not guilty on both counts. Deliberation lasted around 45 minutes, which Shimek said it felt like a lifetime.
When asked what he learned from going through the process of fighting charges, he offered the following…
- Be committed to the cause you devote yourself to. Know not only what you stand for, but WHY; and be able to articulate that to the world that needs to hear.
- Whatever cause you devote yourself to, know all applicable laws and ordinances.
- Understand people with inflated senses of authority will resist and challenge you. Expect it and plan accordingly. Imagine what they might say or ask. Think about what you might answer. Develop a system of dialogue.
- I would say “Remain Calm,” but anyone who knows me and how I sometimes get, would laugh.
- RECORD RECORD RECORD
Shimek also added that every encounter he has had with law enforcement influences his ideas and opinions about recording law enforcement. This case showed him the invaluable evidence that video can provide in a court of law. The case reinforced his resolve that recording and documenting what public officials do on public land is necessary in a free society. However, the method in which he does is always evolving.