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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

State of Florida v. Andrew Meyer: Spoilt ham faces meaty prison term of up to 5 years

Why is this report so unsurprising?

Police noted that [Meyer's] demeanor "completely changed once the cameras were not in sight" and described him as laughing and being lighthearted as he was being driven to the Alachua County Detention Center.

"I am not mad at you guys, you didn't do anything wrong. You were just trying to do your job," Meyer said, according to the police report.

At one point, he asked whether there were going to be cameras at the jail, according to the report.

As I said in a comment to my own original post on this incident, poor dear Tasered Andrew Meyer is probably the happiest man in America tonight.

But he ought not be:

Meyer was charged with resisting arrest with violence — a felony — and a misdemeanor count of disturbing the peace. He was released without having to post bond Tuesday.

That first charge would be under Fla. Stat. § 843.01:

Resisting officer with violence to his or her person. — Whoever knowingly and willfully resists, obstructs, or opposes any officer as defined in s. 943.10(1), (2), (3), (6), (7), (8), or (9); ... or other person ... in the lawful execution of any legal duty, by offering or doing violence to the person of such officer or legally authorized person, is guilty of a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.

The Florida sentencing statutes are pretty complicated, but the cross-reference to section 775.082 appears to provide that the punishment for such third degree felonies for first-time offenders is "a term of imprisonment not exceeding 5 years." That's probably a worst-case scenario. And given that he didn't slug any police officers, and neither, apparently, did he end up much harming any of them through his thrashing around and other resistance, I suspect there's a good chance that Meyer would actually be convicted of some lesser included offense and/or sentenced to less than the maximum penalty for this one. Nevertheless, this charge ought to be a sparky bite of horseradish when it's properly appreciated by a free-wheeling publicity-hungry 21-year-old student.

While we're tiptoeing through the Florida criminal laws, let's also pause to notice section 776.051:

(1)  A person is not justified in the use of force to resist an arrest by a law enforcement officer who is known, or reasonably appears, to be a law enforcement officer.

(2)  A law enforcement officer, or any person whom the officer has summoned or directed to assist him or her, is not justified in the use of force if the arrest is unlawful and known by him or her to be unlawful.

Meyer thus can have no self-defense/justification defense against these uniformed officers. And their use of force was only unjustified if both the arrest was unlawful in the 20/20 hindsight of the court and it was actually known and appreciated by them at the time to be unlawful. That would be a mega-tough standard for Meyer to meet.

These are just my wild guesses as a lawyer not admitted to practice in Florida. But none of them, even as viewed through the more knowledgeable eyes of a Florida practitioner, is likely to make Meyer feel like such a hot dog tomorrow.

Posted by Beldar at 12:13 AM in Law (2007) | Permalink


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» "Don't Tase me, bro!" incident report due today from BeldarBlog

Tracked on Oct 24, 2007 12:50:01 AM


(1) Beldar made the following comment | Sep 19, 2007 12:43:42 AM | Permalink

And yes, I know the meat packing company is Oscar Mayer, not Meyer. But when one's this far out on the punning ledge, such matters are trifles to be shrugged off like ... umm ... like a badly aimed Taser prong that only contacted one's sleeve.

(2) TriggerFinger made the following comment | Sep 19, 2007 3:42:07 AM | Permalink


With all due respect (and you are due a lot, as a long-time reader), I think you are looking at this situation in the wrong way. You're right on the law, I think (as if my opinion means anything, IANAL) and the guy here was clearly an idiot to resist arrest with a substantial, albeit apparently mostly defensive, use of force; not to mention clearly more than a little bit off the deep end of paranoia; but what about the larger picture?

The guy was exercising his First Amendment right to petition a representative of his government (Kerry is still a senator, yes? I don't recall for sure) for redress of grievances. In the big picture this is clearly a problematic First Amendment situation.

Look at what you yourself have noted -- he's likely to get charged with a felony for his, which is going to basically ruin his life. Is that really how we want to to respond to someone using two or three minutes of microphone time in an unpolished and rude manner?
Is police intervention and a criminal record really the best (not to mention FIRST) way to respond to someone speaking his mind without apparent threat of violence?

I'm not defending ANY of the student's actions. Clearly, he's a bit nuts and deliberately disruptive.

I'm sure the founders of our nation were quite a bit more disruptive at times, and they would have certainly intended the First Amendment to protect this sort of uncomfortable but non-violent speech to a greater extent than is evident here.

(3) Mick Russom made the following comment | Sep 19, 2007 4:25:01 AM | Permalink

If I was on the JURY, this would be INSTANT ACQUITTAL.

This is a frigging POLICE STATE. This is a government that hands our DEATH and CENSORSHIP!

This was a brutal display of FASCISM.

(4) boris made the following comment | Sep 19, 2007 8:33:43 AM | Permalink

A "deliberately disruptive" person is subject to being escorted out of the forum.

Resisting lawful escort is a form of assault on the officers. Calling such resistance "defensive" is irrelevant.

(5) Boyd made the following comment | Sep 19, 2007 9:01:30 AM | Permalink

Meyer's life won't be ruined because he's an obnoxious gas bag who wouldn't shut up. His life may be ruined because he resisted arrest. Even I knew that when I was 21, and I was a pretty stupid 21-year-old (not that I'm necessarily that much smarter 30 years later).

And Mick, if you only knew what a Police State and Fascism really were, you wouldn't be here betraying your ignorance. I'd say the odds are fairly high that a Florida jury would convict him if they ultimately get the opportunity.

(6) LarryD made the following comment | Sep 19, 2007 9:09:56 AM | Permalink

Meyer was there to get himself on TV and in the papers.

He bolted ahead of the line to get to a microphone when it became appear that the Q&A session was about to end. This is what initially got the cops on him, but Kerry told the cops to back off and let him speak. That's where most of the videos begin.

And where in Meyer's spiel was there any petition to redress grievances?

We've been way too tolerant of this kind of "look at me!" behavior, it's made honest political debate far more difficult to conduct.

(7) Jerri Lynn Ward made the following comment | Sep 19, 2007 9:18:45 AM | Permalink

I have to say that I agree with triggerfinger--and it truly bothers me that this happened on Constitution Day. I really don't have any comment on what was happening during the arrest because I can't see the details on the video well enough.

However, several things that appear on the version of the video shot from in front of the student really bother me. First, I remember these Q&A things from college and many questioners did not get to the point and rambled, but no cop approached them to tell them how to ask their question. The speaker usually intervened and said "get to the point". In the video the female cop obviously was ordering him to get to the point. Then, you could see her in the background physically reacting with disapproval to the CONTENT of the student's statements. (I'm not even talking about the vulgar expression that he used) Moreover, it appeared to me that she needlessly escalated the circumstances by grabbing him just as Kerry began answering the questions.

I read the police report and it appeared filled with self-serving hyperbole about his demeanor during his questioning. The guy has a voice that projects and a passionate way of asking questions--but I saw nothing threatening about his demeanor. I got the impression that these cops would consider that anyone who isn't soft-spoken and compliant-appearing is some kind of incipient threat.

The idea that we should have police deal with line-cutting and annoying questions truly bothers me and seems to be a relatively new and dangerous development. I remember when citizens dealt with boorish behavior themselves rather than employing agents of the government to do it for them.

(8) nk made the following comment | Sep 19, 2007 9:43:07 AM | Permalink

For my two cents .... 776.051(2) appears to be a statement of the federal constitutional standard for qualified governmental immunity. I don't know how it fits into the Florida penal scheme but it need not create an affirmative defense for someone arrested -- just the deprivation of one for a police officer who is charged either criminally or civilly for abusing his authority.

(9) Jim Treacher made the following comment | Sep 19, 2007 10:41:06 AM | Permalink

"Is that really how we want to to respond to someone using two or three minutes of microphone time in an unpolished and rude manner?"

Yeah, they zapped him because he didn't rehearse his speech enough.

Andrew Meyer is really like the founding fathers, when you don't think about it.

(10) TriggerFinger made the following comment | Sep 19, 2007 10:54:56 AM | Permalink

Boris, the way I see the video, the cops grabbed him first -- they initiated a forceful arrest. I don't see the student assaulting anyone or committing any offensive act (ie, he's doing nothing save trying to escape). The amount of "disruption" here is very minimal and non-violent until the police initiate force. Remember, I'm not defending his actions, I'm questioning the nature of the response.

Obviously, trying to escape qualifies as resisting arrest, but I have substantial doubts in my mind as to whether the initial arrest/detention was warranted. That colors the analysis significantly from a moral perspective if not from a legal one.

Larry, it sounded to me like he was asking questions and expressing grievances. Does he have to carry a physical list of signatures to count as "petitioning"? Not in any sane world. It seems to me that conducting actual debate would be easier without police carting off people who are earnestly and passionately trying to debate.

Boyd, obviously resisting arrest puts the kid in serious legal jeopardy and was a stupid move on his part. It's the arrest itself that raises questions in my mind. And I can't swear that a reasonable person standing up for his perceived right to free speech might not react intemperately to being arrested at that point -- where a "reasonable person" is explicitly not a lawyer who knows exactly what behavior will get him in real trouble. We didn't get our own nation by meekly submitting to authority figures when they made unreasonable demands.

Hindsight is perfect. But the police function should be to keep the peace whenever possible, not to initiate force themselves upon people exercising their Constitutional rights. I don't see any real justification for an arrest here, and laying hands upon the guy before he did anything violent strikes me as exactly the way to provoke a physical response by sheer instinct.

How hard would it be to turn off the guys' mic, let Kerry blather for a minute pretending to answer him, then declare the event closed? Sure, they tried that -- but not nearly hard enough, and the escalation to initiation of force was way too rapid.

(11) TriggerFinger made the following comment | Sep 19, 2007 11:16:50 AM | Permalink

Jim, I'm not objecting to "zapping" him once he was clearly and forcefully resisting arrest. The police clearly felt justified in doing so and were presumably acting within their procedures for conducting an arrest.

I'm just questioning the rapid escalation to forceful arrest.

(12) Allan Yackey made the following comment | Sep 19, 2007 11:22:25 AM | Permalink

Florida law looks similar to Indiana law. A number of years ago Indiana took away from its citizens the right to overtly resist an unlawful arrest. The expressed reason for this was that resisting an unlawful arrest put the citizen under most circumstances in a contest with an armed policeman. If the arrest was indeed unlawful, the officer was already off the playing field. The more wrong the arrest the more likely the citizen was to be harmed. The court said that matters of this kind are better settled in court before a judge than on the street.

There is a certain logic to this in the current environment in the United States, although there are people who disagree with it. However, one thing is clear, a citizen can be convicted of resisting arrest in an unlawful arrest situation and still win the lawsuit over the unlawful arrest.

From what I have seen so far, I would anticipate an internal investigation by the police agency of what occured. While the kid may have been a jerk, there was little indication of restraint on the part of the officers.

Of couse missing from what I have seen is whatever occured prior to him being at the mike.

(13) Sarahw made the following comment | Sep 19, 2007 12:34:59 PM | Permalink

"using two or three minutes of microphone time in an unpolished and rude manner" is not why this young man is charged with resisting arrest. He would have got away with no charges, or sitrubing the peace at most, if he had simply left when asked, or taken "no more questions" for an answer.

Should the young man be "ruined"? I think he needs medical attention and perhaps some medication, and his family needs the seriousness of the situation brought to their attention in an undeniable way.

(14) boris made the following comment | Sep 19, 2007 12:45:22 PM | Permalink

the cops grabbed him first -- they initiated a forceful arrest

There is no evidence of that.

An obnoxious heckler at a band performance will be ejected from the bar by a couple of bouncers. That is not an arrest. If the heckler resists as this guy did, he get's much worse than a zap.

If anything with a guy this size, they would be more effective than those cops. Meyer is a big fit guy (bouncer material himself) and even minimal training would be deadly with bare hands. They would take no chances and would incapacitate him at the first sign of resistance.

(15) Jim Treacher made the following comment | Sep 19, 2007 12:53:17 PM | Permalink

"I'm just questioning the rapid escalation to forceful arrest."

That would be the part where he screamed and flailed around. He was the one doing the escalating. He obviously didn't enjoy being told what to do, probably because it was the first time in his life it had ever happened, but he was the one who took it to that level.

(16) Sarahw made the following comment | Sep 19, 2007 1:01:47 PM | Permalink

Trigger finger - I think you might wonder less if you knew some more details.

Meyers got upset when he realized that he was not going to be able to question Kerry, as the Q&A had been limited and time was over. He got into it, bitching at the unfairness of it all, with an Accent rep ( Accent is the organizer of the event). He caught the attention of an officer because his body language was kind of aggressive and hostile and leaning into the rep.

The last question was being answered when Meyers bolted from the back of the line, and loudly, hands a-wavin, demanded to be heard in the middle of Kerry's answer to another student, stating that he was about to be arrested. Kerry tried to calm Meyers, said he would answer his question if he could complete his answer to the other student.

The cops actually were ready to escort him out at that point...

You've got to see between the lines here. The other dissapointed waiting Q&A'a returned to their seats, or began to leave. Meyer's was acting oddly. Hackles were raised...crazy people zig when others zag, and there was elevated concern about him before he even got to the podium.

So Meyers starts in with his "questioning" prefaced by rude remarks about Kerry's "crap", after Kerry himself keeps him from being escorted out of the building. His "question" turns into a mostly pointless rant. He gets vulgar. His mike is cut, the officers who went up to the podium behind him, because he's being so weird, tell him he's done and ask him to step outside.

At which point he begins a-hollerin: "I'm being arrested" Are you arresting me? Why are you arresting me?" before anyone has actually indicated he is going to be arrested. Weird.
Then they try to make him go, since he isn't going on his own, and you know the rest. He starts leaping around and trying to go back to the podium. He already knows the mic is off...he's shouted about it. He knows he's supposed to go, he doesn't want to. He doesn't want his most important show to be over.

He's now out of control, and its his own doing. It is not the officers fault that this situation escalated.

The biggest mistake of the evening, was anyone agreeing to hear him. No, was what he should have been told. That will be all the questions for this evening, thank you for coming.

He still would have pitched a fit, I suppose, and it would have looked ugly. Maybe nothing would have come out differently except you would not be apologising for his conduct by saying he had a right to be confused and belligerent about leaving his star turn at the mic.

(17) TriggerFinger made the following comment | Sep 19, 2007 1:17:29 PM | Permalink

Sarah, I suspect the student's family may find the seriousness of the nation's political climate brought home to them in an undeniable way when their son is brought up on felony charges for asking uncomfortable questions.

I understand that the resisting arrest charge is the result of the student's actions. Yet those actions would not have taken place but for the questionable use of force to eject him. Are we to meekly submit when our rights are denied? That way lies tyranny.

Lawyers have a tendency to view the legal system as the solution to all (or at least most) problems, and to focus on practical advice and details rather than the larger picture. That's a bit of what is happening here. I would expect a lawyer to have advised the student to stand in line, to wait his turn, to speak briefly and politely, to cooperate with the police, to do a lot of things differently.

But the kid is not a lawyer, and he may well not realize that the law will come down upon him like a load of bricks for so much as shrugging off the "gentle hand" of authority.

I'm not questioning whether what happened was within the law so much as I am questioning what the law should be. As someone said in the earlier post, no one in this situation handled it particularly well, including the police officers there.

(18) Jim Treacher made the following comment | Sep 19, 2007 1:29:18 PM | Permalink

I suppose they should have patted their knees and said, "Here, boy! That's a good boy!" Maybe held up a nice biscuit for him.

(19) TriggerFinger made the following comment | Sep 19, 2007 1:55:50 PM | Permalink

Boris, you say there's no evidence of that, yet it's what I saw clearly on the video. There's one brief attempt to interrupt with a relatively light touch that is brushed off, then it's straight to frog-marching up the aisle. While I haven't ever had the dubious privilege of being ejected from a bar by bouncers, the only real difference there is that the bouncer is not an agent of the state and the person ejected is not usually charged with felonies. It's just as much an objectionable use of force (assuming otherwise identical circumstances), arguably more so because the bouncers are acting as private citizens.

Jim, I'm not defending his clearly somewhat unstable behavior. I just think it could have been handled a lot better. Having the police start a brawl (and it is clear that they started the brawl, albeit with some cause) is an escalation. Is it wrong to expect some sort of attempt to calm the situation down before that?

Sarah, I'm familiar with the full sequence of events. Given his unstable behavior I don't object to having the police officers ready to tackle him in case he does something truly dangerous. My concern is that he hadn't done anything dangerous and got dragged off anyway. I'm much less concerned about what happens after the initial arrest attempt, since by that time the student is clearly in the wrong by trying to escape. (I *sympathize* with his reaction without endorsing it).

I do agree though -- refusing to take his question at all once he cut in line and displayed a bit of instability would have probably been a better decision.

I should note that I'm working under a slight handicap -- I have watched the videos and read the detailed play by play, but there wasn't any sound in the versions that I saw. Not sure why, probably just a local computer problem that will get sorted out when I have time to figure it out, but that may be somewhat influencing how I perceive the situation.

(20) Jim Treacher made the following comment | Sep 19, 2007 2:02:37 PM | Permalink

So, a police officer putting their hand on somebody's elbow is starting a brawl?

"Is it wrong to expect some sort of attempt to calm the situation down before that?"

They did. He refused.

(21) TriggerFinger made the following comment | Sep 19, 2007 2:04:58 PM | Permalink

Jim, I don't think that would work. For one thing we don't want to reward disruptive behavior...

I would be satisfied with something as simple as someone on stage closing down the event (since that was the stated reason for not taking more questions anyway), firmly informing everyone that the event is over and it's time to file out of the auditorium in an orderly fashion, and otherwise peacefully denying the kid his audience. Combine that with an officer or two calmly saying "Son, you've had your time, let's have a chat about not disrupting events like this and then you can go home too."

BOTH sides escalated this and I'd rather see police officers trying to keep the peace, even if that means being a little more tolerant of this sort of thing.

(22) Jim Treacher made the following comment | Sep 19, 2007 3:20:18 PM | Permalink

They were keeping the peace. Meyer was the one disturbing it.

They should have shut down the whole event because one guy was being a jerk? That hardly seems fair to everybody else who assembled peacefully.

(23) Jim Treacher made the following comment | Sep 19, 2007 3:22:07 PM | Permalink

"Son, you've had your time, let's have a chat about not disrupting events like this and then you can go home too."

They did that. That's when he snapped, "I'll finish my question, thank you very much."

(24) boris made the following comment | Sep 19, 2007 3:26:10 PM | Permalink

the bouncer is not an agent of the state and the person ejected is not usually charged with felonies

The second half of that statement explains the first.

It is obvious from the video that Meyers is simply being escorted from the room when he assaults the officers and attempts to escape and return to the mic.

After that only mild force is used and one officer actually picks Meyers up to physically carry him from the room. Again Meyers assaults that officer and is wrestled to the ground.

People who deal with security for a living have a greater right to safely do their job than a large potentially dangerous grandstanding ruffian to throw an hysterical tantrum for show.

(25) boris made the following comment | Sep 19, 2007 3:29:22 PM | Permalink

explains the first

* is explained by the first *

(26) boris made the following comment | Sep 19, 2007 3:30:27 PM | Permalink


(27) jmurphy made the following comment | Sep 19, 2007 4:07:46 PM | Permalink

You say "Given his unstable behavior I don't object to having the police officers ready to tackle him in case he does something truly dangerous. My concern is that he hadn't done anything dangerous and got dragged off anyway."

A few points: you are applying 20-20 hindsight (with no audio, which I submit adds quite a bit of information on how bizarrely he was acting). It is a judgment call, best made by those present, at what point to remove him from the room. He got "dragged off" only because he decided to assault the police officers. (Of course when one handcuff was on, he offered to walk out if they would not arrest him -- typical cowardly behavior by a bully whose usual bullying failed him.)

Secondly, it sure seemed dangerous to me that he was ignoring orders of police officers, and rushed towards the stage and Sen. Kerry, especially after displaying such erratic behavior.

And thirdly, it strikes me as bad public policy to establish a rule that you can ignore a police officer's order until you attempt something "truly dangerous." The policy described by poster Allan Yackey seems like the better way.

Particularly with the benefit of audio, you can see (and hear) that the police officers gave this guy many opportunities to comply. They continually warned him of the consequences of his actions.

As far as use of force, well, if you want to call it force, the police started out with a small female police officer (her hat came up to about his shoulder)putting a hand on his arm to lead him out. A second police officer held his other arm to lead him out, and the fight was on, as he broke loose, heading towards the stage.

It then "escalated" when the small female police officer tried to block his path to the stage. A second male officer (the only one close in size to the ejectee) calmly walked up and again tried to get him to leave. This cop then simply shoved him up the stairs and away from the Senator. At the top of the stairs he lunges at the cops, and he violently resisted being handcuffed.

From what I could see and hear, the police officers continued to use the minimum force necessary, and actually showed great restraint.

To me everything points to a verbal and physical bully who itched for a confrontation, and got one. The event organizers and Kerry gave him a break despite his line jumping and disruptive behavior, and the police were going to give him a pass if he just left. He was able to bully the event organizers, but he went too far -- way too far -- with the police (all the while making sure it got videotaped for his blog). Can't say I feel sorry for him, and it doesn't seem to be the beginning of the long dark night of fascism either.

(28) TriggerFinger made the following comment | Sep 19, 2007 4:09:20 PM | Permalink

Jim, the event was already over, remember? If it was ongoing, then the disruption is obviously also ongoing. As it was, though, just ending the event seems the easiest way to handle it without violence.

Boris, I believe that the police have a *greater* obligation to respect the rights and safety of the people they need to interact with than does an ordinary citizen, precisely because it is their job. The police are trained, armed, and prepared to use force; they will by design come out on top of almost any struggle they engage in. As such it is their responsibility to avoid initiation of force whenever possible.

I don't object *in principle* to disruptive individuals being forcibly removed from the event they are disrupting, but this event really does disturb me due to the speed and magnitude of the response. It takes less than a minute for the police to decide to physically remove someone by force rather than 'suasion? That just doesn't sit right to me.

Remember, too, that while we know that Meyer was prepared to resist arrest and a lot of people seem to think that reaction justifies the initial police response, when the police first begin using force they DID NOT KNOW what he would do.

Obviously Meyer's subsequent actions can be seen as somewhat justifying the quick escalation, but that's hindsight. I'm not justifying Meyer's actions, just questioning whether the initiation of force at that point was morally acceptable. I don't think it was, even if it was legal.

(29) Jim Treacher made the following comment | Sep 19, 2007 4:14:16 PM | Permalink

"Jim, the event was already over, remember?"

Then why was everybody sitting there?

(30) Jim Treacher made the following comment | Sep 19, 2007 4:15:50 PM | Permalink

P.S. Please look up "initiate."

(31) boris made the following comment | Sep 19, 2007 4:31:31 PM | Permalink

I believe that the police have a *greater* obligation to respect the rights and safety of the people they need to interact with than does an ordinary citizen, precisely because it is their job


Their job is security, not pandering to tantrums from dangerously large ruffians.

Security for: (1) themselves (2) guest speaker (3) bystanders.

If they aren't providing order and security then they are not doing their job. That looked like a potentially dangerous situation to me. Be more open to the notion that other people do not see everything the same way you do. It was a judgement call. Frankly given your discussion here you would not be my first choice to interview applicants for a security position.

(32) TriggerFinger made the following comment | Sep 19, 2007 4:31:39 PM | Permalink

jmurphy, talk is talk and force is force. The force was initiated by the police officers in this case. I don't see shrugging off a hand on your arm as "assault" or even "resisting arrest" since he wasn't even under arrest at that point. I concur that his actions subsequent to being grabbed by both arms and force-walked up the aisle justify the escalating responses by the police. It's the point of initiation of force that's the problem. Was THAT justified, before he begin resisting or lunging towards the stage? Not as I see it, because Meyer hasn't initiated any force or demonstrated himself to be a threat. He definitely deserved some extra attention but he was talking, not fighting, when they grabbed him.

Also, a couple people have mentioned that the police were going to give him a pass once they got him outside. We don't know that, and Meyer didn't know that. From Meyer's perspective, he was being arrested right then and there. The knowledge gap on both sides is crucial to understanding why this bothers people.

Put yourself in Meyer's situation on an issue you feel passionately about. You're trying to make your point and all of a sudden you are surrounded by police asking you to stop. You're already highly emotional due to the situation and suddenly you're threatened, your mic is cut, and you're being tackled and force-walked out of the room. How well are you going to react? Not as well, or as rationally, as people have suggested here.

(33) boris made the following comment | Sep 19, 2007 4:42:54 PM | Permalink

poor baby

(34) SarahW made the following comment | Sep 19, 2007 4:52:58 PM | Permalink

Triggerfinger, normal people do indeed act rationally. Irrational people act irrationally. He caused not only annoyance but alarm with his irrational belligerance and attempts to force people to listen after he was told by every possible method that Q&A was OVER.

(35) TriggerFinger made the following comment | Sep 19, 2007 5:05:38 PM | Permalink

Boris, I wouldn't want to be your first choice for that either. As a libertarian, I believe in a strictly limited government, and that puts obvious limitations on the actions that can be taken in the name of "security"... limitations intended to protect liberty.

I've never disputed that Meyer's behavior raised security concerns even before he begin speaking, but there is a difference between ensuring physical security and using force to provide "order" by suppressing disruptive speech. You can do the first without needing to do the second.

Similarly, I haven't disputed that it's a judgment call. I'm not suggesting that everyone has to see it my way, that the officers should be sued, that Meyer was right, or even that the handling of this specific case was incorrect.

I've said that rapidity of the police response to speech -- not physical threats or violence, just speech -- is disturbing to me. I think it could have been handled better. I look at the big picture, not just this specific case, and I wonder about this type of response being employed in other situations.

Finally, boris, I'm not suggesting that any pandering be done. I'm saying that I don't see much attempt to explain even the basics of the situation to Meyer -- someone gives the nod to throw him out and cuts the mic, and within 30 seconds he's being dragged off by force.

And that just fundamentally bothers me. That sort of thing is not supposed to happen here. It happens in police states.

I suppose, in some ways, it bothers me for the same reason that Larry Craig's case bothers me. Without disagreeing with the specific problems being addressed (threats of violence, sex in public restrooms), I'm concerned by the fact that an ordinary person could easily find himself being arrested and charged not for something he did, but rather for something someone else thought he might do.

(36) boris made the following comment | Sep 19, 2007 6:06:31 PM | Permalink

someone else thought he might do


(1) Refused officer command to desist.

(2) Assaulted escorting officers in attempt to escape

(3) When forcefully CARRIED away assaulted that officer

(4) Resisted hand cuffing until tazer was used

(5) IMO was inciting riot (yelling "fire" in a crowded theater")

Your perception of reality is so blinkered it discredits any reasonable claim to difference in point of view.

(37) SPQR made the following comment | Sep 19, 2007 6:44:17 PM | Permalink

Trigger finger, it appears to me that you keep misrepresenting events to make a point that does not apply here.

This being a classic example: "Sarah, I suspect the student's family may find the seriousness of the nation's political climate brought home to them in an undeniable way when their son is brought up on felony charges for asking uncomfortable questions."

A complete misrepresentation and an attempt to turn Meyer's stunt into a victimization by some great governmental conspiracy. This is simply nonsense. Meyer intentionally disrupted a public event - the only reason his questions made anyone uncomfortable was because they were incoherent.

(38) TriggerFinger made the following comment | Sep 19, 2007 7:10:55 PM | Permalink

SPQR, I don't appreciate being accused of dishonesty. We're all watching the same video. I'm talking about what I'm seeing and perceiving. I assure you I am doing so honestly. Clearly there's a large gap in perceptions with some folks, but I'm not "misrepresenting" anything.

You, however, are misrepresenting my position. I haven't ever invoked "a great governmental conspiracy". I make no such claim.

I am disturbed by the political and security climate having reached the point where the events depicted on the video could happen as quickly and casually as they did.

Not ranting, not raving, not calling for lawsuits or firings -- just disturbed.

(39) Kevin R.C. 'Hognose' O'Brien made the following comment | Sep 19, 2007 8:04:10 PM | Permalink

Triggerfinger: "when their son is brought up on felony charges for asking uncomfortable questions."

Have you no integrity at all? That is a staggeringly dishonest statement, and you know it. And yet you (hiding behind internet anonymity) object to being called on your dishonesty. Well, I'm calling you.

Meyer did not land in crowbar motel because of the content of his speech. Your suggestion that he did is an outright lie, and it says more about you than about the case at hand.

The "political climate" lately has nothing to do with this. If somebody had pulled a tantrum and started wrestling with cops forty-five years ago in the benign glow of Camelot, that era's cops would have treated him considerably more roughly than these guys treated this worthless narcissus.

A Taser is exceedingly unpleasant, but a nightstick can do irreversible damage. What you're whining about was policemen showing restraint; since you keep trying to tie this to some personal political hobby-horse, your perceptual field and range of experience may be too narrow for you to see that.

(40) SPQR made the following comment | Sep 19, 2007 8:33:31 PM | Permalink

Triggerfinger, your quoted words speak louder than your rationalizations.

(41) TriggerFinger made the following comment | Sep 19, 2007 8:59:58 PM | Permalink

Kevin, I assume everyone commenting on this has watched the video or minimally read through the descriptions. I have just now watched all three videos three or four times each. What happened, factually, is not in dispute.

When he was taken to the lower level, if you listen closely, you can hear him being asked for id, and the police officer says something about "not needing one to incite a riot".
Inciting a riot is a bulls**t charge for the facts, which is why he wasn't actually charged with that, but it says something about why they decided to arrest him.

He was actually charged with resisting arrest and disturbing the peace, both of which are legitimate and relatively content-neutral charges. Looking at the total behavior described in the various sources here, it's clear to me that he gave the officers some cause for alarm, but NOT that anything he did justified being forcefully arrested at the time the initiation of force by the officers occurred. (In fact, if you pay close attention, the officers waited until he stopped talking to grab him -- he was done at that point).

His subsequent resistance cannot retroactively justify the arrest.

It seems that nobody is listening to what I am saying, and instead prefer to set up straw men to attack. I'm not interested in participating in that type of discussion, so I'll leave it alone henceforth.

One final note to Kevin: TriggerFinger is the name of my blog, and I've been using it for years. It's no more anonymous than Beldar.

(42) oneofthree made the following comment | Sep 19, 2007 9:17:55 PM | Permalink

Freedom of speech is not an absolute. As I'm sure any of the lawyers who read this blog know, the government can restrict speech when that speech is in a public forum or limited public forum. I.e. - requireing the use of comment cards, limiting speech to a time limit, standing in line, etc. It seems to me, after reading all the articles and blog (objective and not) that this kid violated the procedural rules that were set in place. Most of the videos you see apparently started after the original problem with this kid cutting in line, being told he couldn't speak and then Kerry allowing him to. Hence the reason the police were behind him in the first place. If that is true, then he could have legally been removed at that point before all the cameras turned on. Once the police attempted to remove him, he resisted, violently. In Florida (where I practice, so I cannot comment about anyother state) pulling and shoving is resisting arrest violently or battery on leo. At that point leo could arrest him, which they attempted to do. If you listen carefully, while he is on the floor, the female officer tells him he will be tased unless he stops resisting. While leo is attempting to turn him over to handcuff him, he continues to resist and is contact tased - not full on tased - there is a difference. While I don't agree that leo were particully smart taseing someone in a crowd, they were (in my humble opinion) legally authorized to do so. Also - this may be interesting as well - apparently this kid loves the camera.


(43) jmurphy made the following comment | Sep 20, 2007 12:16:21 AM | Permalink

I relly don't see others are setting up strawmen. Your main point has been made repeatedly, but others see your opinion lacks a sound factual foundation.

You said: "I've said that rapidity of the police response to speech -- not physical threats or violence, just speech -- is disturbing to me."

Regarding the rapidity. I think you are looking only at the last couple of minutes of the disruption, and think that is rapid. He had already jumped the line, disrupted the event and taunted the police to arrest him before the video starts. The police were fully justified in removing him BEFORE he started his ramblings. This was a good faith, but futile, attempt by Kerry to pacify this agitated young man, but of course Meyer was not acting in good faith, or acting rationally.

So, you are watching the last little bit of the encounter, and think the officers reacted too quickly.

I also don't think it was the content of his speech. He could have chanted "love and kissses" to Kerry, and when his time was up, well, his time was up. He should have turned around and left. As anticipated, he was there to cause a scene, so the police were standing by. The only thing he felt passionate about was getting attention. His outrage seemed very staged and contrived to me.

There is a free speech issue here -- there is no right to a heckler's veto.

I too fear the heavy hand of the government infringing speech. During the Clinton administration a couple were arrested here in Chicago for saying "You su**." in Pres. Clinton's direction at a public park. They were hustled away and had to go to court on disorderly conduct charges.

So, I don't think this was an infringement on his right of free speech, nor a case of police brutality. To object to the treatment Mr. Meyer received considering his behavior, is to trivialize actual infringement on speech, and actual excess force by police.

(44) Carol Herman made the following comment | Sep 20, 2007 1:08:26 PM | Permalink

One of the arresting officers was female. No way she could have handled this guy. But she is seen talking to him. Trying to get him to calm down. And, listen.

That he got tazed? At least he knows that part!

That he got dragged out? Comes with the Code Pinkers territory; make it difficult for the cops to arrest you.

Same alley for Larry Craig.

As to Floriduh, now that OJ's been released; is to guess how he never goes back to Vegas!

We need to protect our cops, more.

Especially, on the wild and wooley places called wacky-academia.

If these kids had half a brain; instead of inflated grades; they'd know they're just pissing on their own credentials.

They'll have college debt long after the diploma turns out to be worthless.

What is PRICELESS? It was a Kerry event! And, there's no coverage of Kerry. All dressed, and made up for the TV cameras;

Where the audience was also "thin." Not quite a star attraction. As if you needed to be told.

(45) Phelps made the following comment | Sep 20, 2007 1:36:37 PM | Permalink

Given the look on the female officer's face reacting to the questions, you would have a hard time convincing me that the content of his speech did not have an effect on the amount of force she elected to use.

Given the evidence that I have seen (articles and the long 10 min video) I would acquit the man on all charges. And I'm between preponderance of the evidence and beyond a reasonable doubt on excessive use of force on the part of the police officers.

(46) Jerri Lynn Ward made the following comment | Sep 20, 2007 7:13:18 PM | Permalink

I have a question of the other lawyers commenting here, because I don't know this area of the law very well. I think that I have seen some comments or posts in the context of the tasered student which cite laws that say that a person can't resist or fight an officer even in the course of an unlawful arrest.

What about a situation that appears to have recently happened in Roseland, Indiana wherein a city councilman, ejected from a city council meeting by the mayor, compliantly leaves the meeting? As he walks to the front door, an officer comes behind him to shut the door to the chamber and the councilman insults the officer. The officer then shoves the city councilman into the glass doors which open and the councilman hits the glass face first and then lands on his face outside on the concrete. The cop, apparently from the video, jumps on top of the councilman and pounds on him ordering him "to stop resisting". At any point in such a scenario, would the councilman have the right under the law to defend himself from the actions of the officer--assuming that the description of the events above is accurate?

(47) Julie Remington made the following comment | Sep 21, 2007 7:48:59 AM | Permalink

Abused children who become adults holding positions of power project the standards of terror that that they experienced as children onto their fellow citizens. You can only become judge, jury and torturer if you have been abused as a child. Fight child abuse in everyway to stop taser abuse! That's the real issue. Tasers are Nazi torture tools and now some adults who were abused as children and now hold low level law enforcement positions with uniforms can project their inner terror from child abuse onto their fellow citizens by tazering them. One of the protest signs said Taze Pigs. But maybe it would be more helpful to say abused children can grow into Taze Pigs and they do. Stop child abuse.

(48) Jim Treacher made the following comment | Sep 22, 2007 11:29:09 AM | Permalink

Given the look on the female officer's face reacting to the questions, you would have a hard time convincing me that the content of his speech did not have an effect on the amount of force she elected to use.

You must be a big fan of the "body language expert" on O'Reilly. Well, the look on her face might also be due to the fact that he ran up to the mic out of turn, and his generally bizarre, rude behavior. Also, she's a cop, not a hostess.

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