Connecticut State Police troopers unwittingly captured themselves on video appearing to make up charges against a protester, according to lawsuit reported by The Washington Post on Tuesday.
The lawsuit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut, claims three Connecticut state troopers accidentally filmed themselves discussing what infractions a protester committed after confiscating his camera.
“You want me to punch a number on this either way?” State trooper John Barone is heard saying in the video. “Gotta cover our ass.”
The ACLU lawsuit alleges Connecticut State Police violated Michael Picard’s First and Fourth Amendment rights.
The video was filmed on Picard’s camera on September 11, 2015. That night, Picard was filming the state troopers on a road where a DUI checkpoint was set up. Picard routinely protested such checkpoints, filmed police at these stops, and posted the videos on YouTube.
Barone approached Picard after receiving a call about a man with a gun, the lawsuit claims. Picard was wearing a holster with a pistol that he had a permit to carry.
In the video Barone argued with Picard over his right to film the troopers and later confiscated the camera and his pistol, the lawsuit claimed.
The troopers then deliberated on what citations Picard would receive over the incident while the camera was still recording.
“So, we can hit him with reckless use of the highway by a pedestrian and creating a public disturbance, and whatever he said,” Sgt. John Jacobi says in the video, according to The Post.
Master Sgt. Patrick Torneo can also be heard in the video saying they could claim witnesses did not want to provide statements to corroborate the incident.
The troopers ended up charging Picard with reckless use of the highway by a pedestrian and for creating a public disturbance.
“The evidence clearly shows that these police officers violated Mr. Picard’s rights,” said attorney Joseph Sastre, who is representing Picard against the criminal charges and in the ACLU civil lawsuit.
Connecticut State Police have refused to comment on the incident.
“Community members like me have a right to film government officials doing their jobs in public, and we should be able to protest without fearing political retribution from law enforcement,” Picard said in a statement.
“As an advocate for free speech, I’m deeply disappointed that these police officers ignored my rights, particularly because two of the troopers involved were supervisors who should be setting an example for others. By seeking to hold these three police officers accountable, I hope that I can prevent the same thing from happening to someone else.”