Rebel of the Week: Ademo Freeman, Convicted on Three Counts of JournalismAugust 15th, 2012
I seldom feel as though I’m reporting something as important as this, but it encapsulates so many different spheres we frequently cover here, from police brutality, to government malfeasance, to the evolution of journalism. I met Ademo when I was in New Hampshire for Liberty Forum and I think of him as a friend, even at a distance. I was utterly shocked by this conviction. If you don’t already know who Ademo Freeman is it won’t be readily apparent why his conviction is so important. So, we’re going to have to start at the beginning.
In 2009 Ademo Freeman, along with the Rebels Pete Eyre and Jason Talley, embarked on a nationwide search for Freedom in America called Motorhome Diaries. Their journey landed them in New Hampshire among the early movers of the Free State Project. In 2010 they took MARV (The Mobile Authority Resistance Vehicle) back on the road for Liberty on Tour, which they used to spread the freedom they’d found, and combine their online network with the in-person contacts they’d made through new media. During their trip they were arrested for videotaping a police stop which gave rise to their most recent, and in my opinion most successful project, Cop Block.
Ademo Freeman is a journalist, co-host of the radio show Free Talk Live, and co-founder of Cop Block. Cop Block is a decentralized group of individuals dedicated to holding police accountable by documenting and publicizing their actions, whether they are illegal, immoral or just wasteful. They are also an educational resource so people who’d like to engage in similar activism can do so with full awareness of their rights. Ademo has now been convicted of charges that amount to doing exactly that, holding a police officer accountable through journalism.
Ademo was charged with three counts of felony wiretapping, each with a 7-year maximum sentence, for calling public officials, on public phones, in public offices, carrying out their public duties and releasing the recordings to the public. He recorded conversations with Jonathan Hopkins from the Manchester Police Department (603.668.8711), and MaryEllen McGorry and Denise Michael from West High School (603.624.6384), and although he did not explicitly ask “May I please record this conversation” he did inform them that he was seeking public comment.
The episode began last October when teasing between siblings at West High School in Manchester, New Hampshire erupted into an incident of police brutality. 17-year-old Frank Harrington was lifted out of his cafeteria seat by officer Darren Murphy and slammed face-first into a lunch table in what can only be described as “prison discipline.”
Harrington was suspended for 12 days and charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. As is increasingly common, the only reason we even know this story is because of the clandestine recording of a bystander with a Smartphone, which is precisely why Cop Block exists. 17-year-old Michael Proulx recorded the incident, and even though school officials told him that it was “illegal to film,” and ordered him to delete it, Proulx only pretended to erase it.
Michael Proulx is another budding Rebel in this story, and deserves recognition for his contribution. He provided us with a perfect example of why filming public officials and the efforts of Cop Block are so valuable.
New Hampshire’s wiretap law makes it a crime to record someone without permission if they have a “reasonable expectation that what they are saying is not subject to interception.” Wiretapping laws like this were originally passed to protect the privacy of civilians from the police, but now they are being used to protect police from public scrutiny, even though they have no reasonable expectation of privacy while carrying out their public duties. Ademo was offered a plea deal of a two-year suspended sentence. He refused and risked 21 years in a cage to challenge the misuse of this law. In response to the plea offer Ademo wrote:
“I can’t go against my principles and sign a deal that says I acknowledge my actions as wrong”.
The trial was held August 13. Hours before the trial, supporters of Ademo stood in front of the court holding signs and distributing jury nullification pamphlets. The audience was packed with over 90 people who did not stand when Judge Kenneth Brown entered the court, although they stood for Ademo.
The trial itself dispensed more fallacy than justice. It was as if all the principles of logic were suspended and reversed for 3 hours. Ademo’s defense rested mostly on the principle of jury nullification, calling on the jury to vote according to their conscience and not according to the language of a bad law. New Hampshire recently passed a law permitting defense attorneys to inform jurors about jury nullification.
The prosecutor, Michael Valentine (603.627.5605) based his case on Ademo’s character, arguing that Ademo, “doesn’t want to follow the law” and needed to be punished. He pontificated that civilization itself is held together because “we all play by the rules” even if we must follow laws we don’t agree with, apparently unaware that in reality we all break laws everyday that we aren’t even aware of. He called Ademo’s defense a “sideshow” and a “magic act” advising jurors to essentially ignore it. In reality all the smoke and mirrors were on his side of the room. I was especially disgusted with the testimony of Officer David DuPont. Ademo asked him repeatedly what degree of privacy he expected as a public official while carrying out his public duties and DuPont spent a solid 15 minutes pretending he didn’t understand the question. During cross examination from Valentine he gave some mealy-mouthed answer about protecting the personal information of rape victims and undercover officers, which is frankly irrelevant to the circumstances of this case.
After less than an hour of deliberation the jury returned with a guilty verdict on all three counts of felony wiretapping. I guess I shouldn’t be shocked by this anymore, but I was. I find it hard to believe anyone other than the most brainwashed sociocrats actually believes that a person belongs in a cage for recording a telephone conversation.
During sentencing Valentine argued for a harsh sentence because Ademo aimed to “disrupt government” and “to clog the court system” and therefore needed to be made an example of to deter his supporters. Ademo unrepentantly responded, “there’s going to be no rehabilitation.” He will continue to act in accordance with his principles regardless of the sentence.
Thankfully Brown sentenced Ademo to only 12 months. With 9 months suspended, and 1 served, Ademo could be out in only two-months. But that’s a bitter “only” when the officer who bashed that teenager’s face into a table is still working the same job with no repercussions and the journalist who exposed it to the light of public scrutiny sits in a cage.
To get regular updates and learn how you can help Ademo visit www.copblock.org/freeademo
And don’t forget to visit our official website to learn more about the Silver Circle Movie: SilverCircleMovie.com