A Florida man who regularly video records DUI checkpoints to ensure police are operating in compliance of the law was arrested Friday night, moments after he had recorded Hillsborough County deputies falling out of compliance, which he believes may have been to wave a fellow cop through the checkpoint without having to be checked for sobriety.
Even if there was no cop in the car that was allowed to pass through, it created enough of an inconsistency from the predetermined protocol to make all the other stops from that night unconstitutional.
And that is probably why they wanted him removed.
Wally Sullivan, 59, was stripped of his camera and handcuffed , then transported to the sheriff’s office where he was fingerprinted and released within an hour.
They kept his camera as “evidence,” even though they had no legal right to do so considering he is not being accused of using his camera in the commission of a crime.
They didn’t realize he had another camera in a pouch around his neck, which is from where the posted videos come from; the top video being the shortened version, the bottom video the extended version, well worth the 30 minutes.
Sullivan comes from the Jeff Gray School of Citizen Journalism; courteous yet assertive and unafraid to call bullshit when hearing it. And always wearing an extra camera or two on his body.
He was charged with obstructing justice, which under Florida law, is a contempt-of-cop umbrella charge that includes a wide range of charges (posted below) they can choose from in order to prosecute, even if they’re not clear what to charge you with at that exact moment you are supposedly committing a crime.,
But none of the charges that fall under obstructing justice say anything about standing on a median, video recording deputies from two lanes away without saying a word to them.
It all started earlier that evening when Sullivan was threatened by a deputy named Sullivan, who didn’t give him any brotherly love as he forced him away from his original spot on the sidewalk.
Corporal Sullivan led Citizen Sullivan to a designated area he had created just for him, a cop watching zone where he would be unable to count the cars being pulled into the checkpoint to ensure deputies are acting in compliance with a 1990 Supreme Court ruling that states checkpoints must operate under certain guidelines to keep them Constitutional.
The ruling states that agencies must announce the locations beforehand as well as to stick to a predetermined method of deciding which cars get pulled into the checkpoint and which cars are allowed to continue driving, a requirement meant to keep the stops as random as possible to prevent profiling.
Sullivan was already annoyed because earlier that day, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office had posted four different areas in all corners of the county where they could possibly conduct the checkpoint.
“They were trying to hide the location from us,” Sullivan said, referring to a group of cop watchers that usually join him recording the checkpoints.
Sullivan had already driven to two possible locations that were posted only to find nothing, when he came across the real checkpoint, which was being set up in Brandon, a suburb on the east side of the county.
He was standing on the sidewalk, getting ready to begin recording, when Corporal Sullivan approached him, informing him he would not be allowed to stand on the sidewalk because it was “part of the roadway.”
Citizen Sullivan told him that was a stretch, but Corporal Sullivan insisted he was right, reminding Citizen Sullivan that he had been to the police academy, so there.
“I am telling you that the sidewalk is part of the roadway,” Corporal Sullivan assured.
“That’s Florida law. I’ve been to the academy. I know that the sidewalk is part of the roadway.”
But Corporal Sullivan was wrong.
ROADWAY.—That portion of a highway improved, designed, or ordinarily used for vehicular travel, exclusive of the berm or shoulder. In the event a highway includes two or more separate roadways, the term “roadway” as used herein refers to any such roadway separately, but not to all such roadways collectively.
Corporal Sullivan also said it was an “officer-safety issue” to have Citizen Sullivan standing on the sidewalk with his camera because it would make the deputies fear for their lives.
Citizen Sullivan said if he was not going to be allowed to record from the sidewalk, then he was going to record from the median.
Sullivan walked off and onto the median, where he remained for several minutes, counting five cars being ushered into the parking lot before deputies allowed traffic to continue flowing for a couple of minutes. Then the deputies began ushering more cars into the lot.
Sullivan counted one car. Two cars. And just as he was about to count the third car, a dark coupe with tinted windows, deputies allowed it to proceed down the road, a noticeable break in pattern from the previous wave of cars they had ushered into the checkpoint.
“It’s a cop car, I guess,” Sullivan can be heard speculating on the video.
Corporal Sullivan then walked out to the deputies directing traffic into the checkpoint, conferring with them for a couple of minutes before walking up to Citizen Sullivan and arresting him, accusing him of “hollering at cars.”
But at no part in the video does Citizen Sullivan holler at any cars. But we already know not to believe a word that comes out of Corporal Sullivan’s mouth.
843.01 Resisting officer with violence to his or her person.
843.02 Resisting officer without violence to his or her person.
843.021 Unlawful possession of a concealed handcuff key.
843.025 Depriving officer of means of protection or communication.
843.03 Obstruction by disguised person.
843.04 Refusing to assist prison officers in arresting escaped convicts.
843.05 Resisting timber agent.
843.06 Neglect or refusal to aid peace officers.
843.08 Falsely personating officer, etc.
843.081 Prohibited use of certain lights; penalty.
843.085 Unlawful use of police badges or other indicia of authority.
843.0855 Criminal actions under color of law or through use of simulated legal process.
843.09 Escape through voluntary action of officer.
843.10 Escape by negligence of officer.
843.11 Conveying tools into jail to aid escape; forcible rescue.
843.12 Aiding escape.
843.13 Aiding escape of juvenile inmates of correctional institutions.
843.14 Compounding felony.
843.15 Failure of defendant on bail to appear.
843.16 Unlawful to install or transport radio equipment using assigned frequency of state or law enforcement officers; definitions; exceptions; penalties.
843.165 Unauthorized transmissions to and interference with governmental and associated radio frequencies prohibited; penalties; exceptions.
843.167 Unlawful use of police communications; enhanced penalties.
843.17 Publishing name and address of law enforcement officer.
843.18 Boats; fleeing or attempting to elude a law enforcement officer.
843.19 Offenses against police dogs, fire dogs, SAR dogs, or police horses.
843.20 Harassment of participant of neighborhood crime watch program prohibited; penalty; definitions.
843.21 Depriving crime victim of medical care.
UPDATE: Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Public Information Officer, Lawrence McKinnon, sent the following email in regards to this article:
In your article regarding Mr. Sullivan where you state “Sullivan had even called Public Information Officer Larry McKinnon, who hung up on him when learning Sullivan was recording the call”. You omitted a fact that I’m hoping wasn’t intentional; I terminated the call after repeated warnings that I did not give him permission to make a one side recording of the phone call. If your as knowledgeable about the First Amendment as you say you are, you will certainly know that telephonic communications without the others consent is a state and federal violation.
Mr. Sullivan agreed and I called him back and took his public records request…
Have a Great Day,
Public Information Office
Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office
So in a nutshell, McKinnon hung up the phone after learning Sullivan was recording the call – but only after Sullivan refused to stop recording the call when the man who gets paid to go on the record for the department, refused to go on the record for the department.
My response to him is below.
Thanks for your email. I added your statement to the article as an update, but it does boil down to the fact that you hung up the phone after learning he was recording – even if you did ask him repeatedly to stop recording.
I am well-versed in wiretapping laws in this country, which is why I’m glad he informed you he was recording as is required by state law.
But I am curious as to why a media spokesman with 30 years of law enforcement experience would be so adamant about not being recorded when that would be the best manner to ensure accuracy.