A professional videographer who was on assignment for a corporate client in Miami when he was arrested at gunpoint for allegedly threatening to blow up a building was acquitted last week, ending a 5-month nightmare.
Bill Rolland was arrested in July on charges of making false bomb threats – a federal crime that could have landed him in prison for five years.
Last week, after a four-day trial and three witnesses who claimed Rolland threatened to blow up the building, the jury found him not guilty.
“This case should never have been brought to trial,” said his attorney, Robert Stickney, in a telephone interview with Photography is Not a Crime Tuesday afternoon.
“They destroyed his life for five months. Having the full force of the federal government come after you can be extremely intimidating.”
He had entered the lobby while speaking on the phone with another client about another project. This bothered the security guard on staff, who approached him.
Video footage from a surveillance camera in the lobby showed Rolland holding up his finger as if indicating that he would talk to the security guard after he finished his call, Stickney said.
The video shows the security guard walking away from Rolland, Stickney said.
However, the security guard testified that Rolland had walked away from him. He also claimed that Rolland had a “bad attitude.”
“He claimed he was loud, impolite, obnoxious and rude,” Stickney said.
After hanging up, Rolland walked over to the security guard and informed him that he was there on assignment for a client on the ninth floor.
“Nobody had bothered to call up to Next Communications to confirm his story,” Stickney said. “Had they done that, none of this would have happened.”
He then walked outside to capture b-roll footage of the outside building. That was when the chief engineer of the building stepped outside to confront him.
Rolland was on his knees, setting up the camera on a tripod to shoot the side of the building framed in palm trees.
“This is where the stories differ,” Stickney said.
Rolland testified that the chief engineer ordered him to stop videotaping the building, which prompted Rolland to assert his right to shoot from a public sidewalk.
The chief engineer testified that he didn’t even notice the camera. That he only wanted to help Rolland, but when he did, Rolland was rude and profane to him.
The chief engineer walked back inside, threatening to call police.
Stickney said that Rolland had the microphone turned off because he was only shooting b-roll, which is why their conversation wasn’t recorded.
He also said that the camera captured the chief engineer making a gesture with his thumb as if ordering him to leave the area.
Rolland finished his shot, stepped back into the building and told the third witness, the assistant building engineer, that he was staying at the Intercontinental Hotel across the street.
“He even gave them his room number in case the police wanted to talk to him,” Stickney said.
However, the assistant building engineer claimed that Rolland had told him he was returning the following day to blow up the building.
Rolland then walked back outside and made his way towards a CVS where he purchased shaving cream and antacid tablets – clearly the ingredients needed to build a bomb strong enough to blow up the building.
Meanwhile, the assistant building engineer contacted somebody in the Israeli consulate, who sent one of their lawyers to follow Rolland through the streets of downtown Miami.
By the time Rolland stepped out of the CVS, police ordered him at gunpoint to lie on the ground.
“Police ended up shoving my client’s face to the pavement with a gun to his head,” Stickney said.
Before it was over, several streets were closed off to traffic to allow the bomb squad to search for explosives, backing up traffic for miles, adding more chaos to the usual traffic chaos in downtown Miami.
Rolland, who declined to speak on the record, indicated he is planning a lawsuit.