Cincinnati Judge Cruelly Sentences Teen Who Took Photos in Jail

Ben Keller

Cincinnati Judge Cruelly Sentences Teen Who Took Photos 6 Months in Jail for Contempt

A Cincinnati judge probably handed down a cruel and unusual punishment to a teenager for taking one last photograph of a friend at a pre-trial hearing.

Eighteen-year-old man Daymar Whitehead angered Ohio Judge Robert Ruehlman when he took smart phone pictures of deputies escorting his friend down the courthouse hallway from his bond reduction hearing.

“Free Maleik!”

Whitehead gave a shout out to his friend, and then took photos of his pal Maleik in the hallway with deputies as they took him away.

Hamilton County Courthouse Deputies then arrested him.

Judge Ruehlman later sentenced Whitehead to six months in jail for the taking the photos in the hallway.

Judge Ruehlman also ordered for his phone to be destroyed.

Which seems legally excessive since there’s no victim to the crime of photography Judge Ruehlman is pursuing against Whitehead.

The Constitution’s 8th Amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishment, and it’s certainly possible that a judge of competent jursdiction might agree in this case. Or that his rights to counsel or due process under the 6th and 14th amendments might’ve been ignored here too, since it seems like he was instantly siezed, tried and sentenced.

Ohio state law provides that the unjustly incarcerated can file a petition for writ of Habeus Corpus, and the Constitution allows.

Last month, we reported a similar case that also ended up in Judge Ruehlman’s courtoom, where a man took video of a cop who racially profiled him in the courthouse.

Chris Harwell was walking down the street and drinking a cappuccino when Cincinnati officer Baron Osterman began following him on a bike.

He recorded as the officer followed him.

Harwell narrated:

“This is what we have to go through in Cincinnati . . . harassment. You know. You can’t even be a black man and enjoy your morning, because the police are going to harass you in Cincinnati, Ohio. You can’t go buy a cappuccino downtown. You’re going to get harassed from the police. I was walking down the street, and this cop just asked me, ‘do I have a problem?’And . . . what’s your problem?”

Osterman then stopped Harwell for jay walking.

“I saw you crossing against the light.”

“But that crossing says ‘walk’.

“It says [that] now. It turned to walk right when I stopped you.”

“You were scaring me, sir. I don’t know why you are following me. You followed me all the way down the street. Just so you could get me.”

Osterman then told Harwell to put down his phone, pushed Harwell against the wall and arrested him for jaywalking, resisting arrest and possession of marijuana.

Harwell’s phone remained on for a about a minute and half before he was arrested and captured him verbally protesting, but not resisting the arrest in the video you can see below.

Harwell then posted the video of the arrest to Facebook on March 1st.

When he went to court for the pedestrian violation, he took a picture of officer Osterman in the hallway standing with two other officers.

A warrant was then issued for his arrest for posting the photos on Facebook and he was charged with contempt of court.

So it appears as if Hamilton County stopped by his page for a visit.

Hamilton County says Harwell violated a court house security policy that bans cell phones and cameras from being used in any “hearing room, jury room, judge’s chambers or ancillary area” without express written consent from the court.

But nothing is included in the administrative rules for Ohio courts about hallways, lobbies or corridors.

Hamilton County Court’s website does state bans using cellphones, pagers, cameras, or any other electronic devices, but it doesn’t state a law that binds it.

These same arcane rules were used to prosecute Daymar Whitehead.

According to, Whitehead admitted to taking the photos, but said he wasn’t wearing his glasses that day so he didn’t see the signs posted about the policy and apologized.

The judge responded, “Oh, C’mon. I’m not going to put up with this.”

Judge Ruehlman sentenced him to six months in jail; the same sentence as Harwell.

This year, there have been two contempt of court charges that stemmed from violating the courthouse policy. Both involve allegations of taking pictures of law enforcement officers.

But it appears the policy is being used to target only people photographing law enforcement officers.

Using Facebook search, many publicly shared photos have been posted, which were taken inside the Hamilton County Courthouse.

Nobody has been arrested as a result of posting those photos on Facebook.

In 2014, published an editorial about Judge Ruehlman titled Judge should keep grip on emotions indicating that the judge was prone to rash decisions.

It alleged Judge Ruehlman retaliated against the sister of a defendant, who made a hateful comment to a victim’s father.

He sentenced the woman to 30 days in jail.

The editorial criticized Ruehlman for calling the woman an “animal” and claimed the judge was insensitive and demeaning.

It also alleged, “sending someone to jail for 30 days when the jail is chronically overcrowded is injudicious.”

We argue the same for Harwell and Whitehead, but they got 180 days for victimless crime.

Judge Ruhelman’s sentencing of Harwell and Whitehead for taking photos of officers is not just injudicious, it’s a blatant abuse of power.

And it reeks of racial bias and retaliation.

PINAC requested an arrest report from Whitehead’s arrest and will update as we receive more information.

You can share concerns about this case with the Hamilton County Courthouse by calling (513) 946-6029.

Tell them, “Free Daymar Whitehead.”

Because most people want to live in a world where photography is not a crime.


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