Federal Court Rules You Can Be Arrested Simply for Filming the Police

February 24, 2016   |   Derrick Broze

Derrick Broze
February 24, 2016

(ANTIMEDIA) Philadelphia, PA — A federal court in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania has ruled that filming the police without a specific challenge or criticism is not constitutionally protected.

The cases of Fields v. City of Philadelphia, and Geraci v. City of Philadelphia involve two different incidents where individuals were arrested for filming the police. Richard Fields, a Temple University student, was arrested after stopping to take a picture of a large group of police outside a house party. Amanda Geraci, a legal observer with CopWatch Berkeley, attended a large protest against fracking in September 2012 and was arrested while filming the arrest of another protester.

Both Fields and Geraci are seeking damages from the Philadelphia Police Department for violating their Constitutional right to videotape public officials. Previous rulings have found the public has a right to record police as form of “expressive conduct,” such as a protest or criticism, which is protected by the First Amendment.

The appeals court was specifically tasked with finding out whether or not the public has a First Amendment right to photograph and film police without a clear expression of criticism or challenge to police conduct.

The court wrote:

Fields’ and Geraci’s alleged ‘constitutionally protected conduct’ consists of observing and photographing, or making a record of, police activity in a public forum. Neither uttered any words to the effect he or she sought to take pictures to oppose police activity. Their particular behavior is only afforded First Amendment protection if we construe it as expressive conduct.

The court ultimately stated, “We find no basis to craft a new First Amendment right based solely on ‘observing and recording’ without expressive conduct.”

Absent any authority from the Supreme Court or our Court of Appeals, we decline to create a new First Amendment right for citizens to photograph officers when they have no expressive purpose such as challenging police actions,” the decision concluded.

Eugene Volokh, a professor of law at UCLA, disagrees with the decision and says he believes it will eventually be overturned by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals upon appeal.

Whether one is physically speaking (to challenge or criticize the police or to praise them or to say something else) is relevant to whether one is engaged in expression,” Volokh wrote in the Washington Post.But it’s not relevant to whether one is gathering information, and the First Amendment protects silent gathering of information (at least by recording in public) for possible future publication as much as it protects loud gathering of information.

Whether or not the ruling is overturned, it should serve as a reminder to all free hearts and minds that the cost of liberty is eternal vigilance. We cannot become passive and allow the ruling class and despots in government to subvert our path towards liberation. Now more than ever we need communities to actively organize copwatching and politician-watching campaigns that encourage accountability and transparency.  We must also remain strong in our sense of morality and principles, and not allow what is “legal” or “constitutional” to limit us in our fight for freedom.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article referred to the deciding court as an appeals court. It has been updated to reflect it was a federal district court.


This article (Federal Court Rules You Can Be Arrested Simply for Filming the Police) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Derrick Broze and theAntiMedia.org. Anti-Media Radio airs weeknights at 11 pm Eastern/8 pm Pacific. Image credit: Peripitus. If you spot a typo, please email the error and name of the article at edits@theantimedia.org.

Author: Derrick Broze

Derrick Broze joined Anti-Media as an independent journalist in July of 2014. His topics of interest include solutions to the police state, the surveillance state, economic inequality, attacks on Native communities, and oppression in all its forms. He was born in Houston, Texas.

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107 Comments

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  2. Help me to better understand this, if you have criticism or praise torwards LEO's thats ok, but you cant film just for the sake of filming?

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  3. learn your constitution and how to use it. there are a couple cases that have the words any, all, very open ended in your favor. look up carl miller constitutional law and he'll show you how to bring a judge down to his knees with the constitution.

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  4. What?? She was a member of CopBlock. How is that not expressing her criticism???

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  5. So essentially you can still film at any time, so long as you preface the recording by saying "you protest this police intervention" or something? So much more to read now….

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  6. That much closer to 3rd world countries like India where there are not many freedoms. That's why, we need to APPRECIATE the US and be thankful for all those valiant people that laid down their lives for the nation. There's still time.

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  7. And THIS IS how NWO works, police is funded by TAX'ES – You pay, why wouldn't You record YOUR OWN EMPLOYEE?? Same here going on in EU.. This shit won't stop if all of people won't wake up..

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  8. Since itt was a federal appeals court that ruled in favor of the police, the casee would need to be taken up by the Supreme Court. With only 8 justices, a tied court means that the appellate ruling would stand.

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  9. Amazing that money is considered protected speech,but filming is not……

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  10. So, gathering evidence against the Police is grounds for arrest?

    Thanks for standing up for "liberty against oppresion" District Court…

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  11. They all know to not interfere with the Police as that IS an arrestable offense.

    But what this ruling says is that a cell-phone video of a Policeman shooting someone in the back is an illegal collection of evidence that would not be admissable in court (because the officer was not told he was being recorded).

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  12. Wrong it's going to the third circuit court, in which I hope this gets struck down as unconstitutional under our first AMENDMENT rights, we gone see!

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  13. The Constitution of the United States is a Federal issue to enforce or not.

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  14. Pretty much! And if you collect evidence against them without their knowledge you broke the law! Which means the cell phone video of people being shot in the back would be inadmissable in court!

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  15. so if i see a cop beating or shooting an unarmed, non confrontational person and film it becuase i believe that is wrong, is that a genuine expression of criticism?? if im part a group called "copblock" would that not be criticism or challenge towards the police.. another right stripped away while the sheeple let it happen.. it doesnt matter does it? the new iphone is out soon!!

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  16. So to summerize you must say specific words to be protected by our sacred constitution as quoted here, "Neither uttered any words to the effect he or she sought to take pictures to oppose police activity."

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  17. So we can't film police. How but corrupt District judges are they off limits.

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  18. This is their license to kill straight from ypur government hear me when i say this FUCK THE GOVERNMENT AND POLICE

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  19. you probably have to express your critisizm verbally on film so the officers hear you. They just want out of paying damages… haha im sure some money traded hands or favors cashed on this one!

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  20. This is a blatant disregard of freedom of the press and thus, the first amendment. That judge needs to be in jail for ostruction of justice, let alone fired for that blatant disregard of the constitution, that thing that he is specifically supposed to uphold.

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  21. That's your right to record, as per your constitutional freedom of the press/freedom of speech. That judge is a corrupt POS that needs to be jailed for obstruction of justice.

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  22. If the police were behaving themselves they would not have to worry about people documenting their activity.
    I will continue to observe and film the arohgant thuggish actions of these criminals.

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  23. This also proves that videos are having a real Effect on the system , cop found guilty of lying, murder and violating people's constitutional rights. It's Also embarrassing them. And saving many from a doom that they do not deserve.

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  24. Norton v. Shelby County, 118 U.S. 425 (1886)</a><p>

    While acts of a de facto incumbent of an office lawfully created by law and existing are often held to be binding from reasons of public policy, the acts of a person assuming to fill and perform the duties of an office which does not exist de jure can have no validity whatever in law.<p>

    <b>An unconstitutional act is not a law; it confers no rights; it imposes no duties; it affords no protection; it creates no office; it is in legal contemplation as inoperative as though it had never been passed.</b><p>

    <a href="http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/2384"&gt;
    18 USC § 2384

    Seditious conspiracy</a>

    <p>If two or more persons in any State or Territory, or in any place subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof, they shall each be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both.<p>

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  25. Why wasnt it argued under the freedom of press? I wouldnt think taking a photo or video is speech or expression either, but it's protected as press if it ever might be published/posted. First Ammendment has more than the speech clause.

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  26. The plaintiff's argued it was speech/expressive conduct. I agree with you that it's a clear violation of the press clause if they ever though of posting the material online. Problem is the plaintiff's didnt raise that issue at the district court.

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  27. Do that at your peril. The paper terrorists of the sovereign citizen movement are not lawyers, experts, or scholars, and no judge will be brought "down to his knees" by the absurd ramblings of this psycopath.

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  28. So let's spread this around. Can we now say that all recorded surveillance by private investigators is illegal because it is not "expressive conduct"? What about every surveillance camera in the country?

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  29. They are recorded to make sure they act accordingly, most officers are corrupt and work for the corporations even though they are funded by the public. You have to record every incident for evidence purposes.

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  34. So to get aroud this all you have to say ON the video is, "I think what the police are doing is WRONG" and its all good. Anyway FUCK cops and this POS judge

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  35. William Bassett Maybe we should film teachers to see if they are doing their jobs and not spewing their libtard propaganda trying to influence the young and naive.

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  36. The tenor of the quote phrases suggests an ultra-conservative mind behind it. "Creating 'new rights'" has long been a critique by conservatives against societal evolution.

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  37. Of course police are not constitutional; certainly don't belong in a free society. Government protecting its thugs!

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  38. Well then I guess we should take back all the Obama phones that were given out to film supposed police violence against minorities!

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  39. The article is specifically about freedoms in the US being erroded (like the right to film public servants). "Appreciation" won't stop that. Military worship won't stop that. People making their voices heard on a large scale is the only thing that stands a chance of changing things. I've observed that the people blowing the "America/Freedom" horn the loudest (I'm NOT talking about you, specifically) are the same people who have the most disdain for protestors and people who actually excercise their rights.

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  40. Certainly if our gov can record in public things such as traffic cameras, sidewalks and the like, we the people have the right to do any public photography. This isn't all about 1't amendment rights. People need to think out of the box and refrain from being drawn into their arguments.

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  41. The first sentence in this article is incorrect. It was not a federal appeals court, it was a federal district court. Hopefully, this will be overturned by the appeals court.

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  42. Unless it is an undercover operation where the cover of the officer would be compromised. Then his or her life would be in jeopardy. There might also be a situation where the person taking the video is in danger or putting someone else in danger. (paparazzi) Other that that, if the police are doing their job correctly there should be no objection. It might just be use to corroborate the officers story.

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  43. I have represented literally thousands of criminal defendants over the past 30 years. Unfortunately, I never thought, until relatively recently, to keep a running total of the number of times when a defendant's or witness's account of an arrest or interrogation was at odds with the law enforcement version, but there was no way to detrmmine who was telling the truth because law enforcement's recording equipment "malfunctioned," or someone "forgot to turn it on," or it was "missing" or had "accidentally been destroyed." And it is 99 percent certain that whenever that happens, and it is a civilian's word against police testimony, the courts, the cops, the prosecutor – everyone who wants a conviction – instantly enters into an unspoken conspiracy to pretend that police testimony is inherently more truthful than that of a non-law enforcement witness, even though everyone taking part in that little circle-jerk knows it is bulls**t. So, First Amendment right or not, I would love to see police conduct recorded by someone not working for law enforcement. After all, as the police are so fond of telling people, "if you have nothing to hide, what's the problem?"

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  44. Joe Daddario You are a fucking retard and i dont like to use that word…..go read a book and not eat them….

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  45. This is a moronic ruling against the first amendment. “Expressive conduct,” is absolutely implied the second you initiate recording for the purpose of documenting a public officials performance of their paid duties. Linguistic gymnastics by attornies & judges is eroding nearly every Constititional right of AMERICAN citizens. Language and laws are a double edged razor, be acutely alert to abuses of our Constititional rights by our defenders of Law & Order!

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  46. Ike Murphy, typical liberal retort, "I disagree with you so you are a racist homophobe!" Guess what sir (you don't even deserve the distinction as such), but your response alone shows how little faith we should have in your credibility. Grow up or shut up!

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  47. Ruprecht Enoch Gern, saying you don't like using a specific word but then using it anyways only goes to show your true colors and hypocrisy. Ignorant is not an excuse…

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  48. Joe Daddario If it didn't seem that you were being sarcastic or merely showing a moronic mentality, I'd say that's not a bad idea. Teachers and law enforcement officers are very similar these days. Arrogant and lacking the brain power to be anything more than last bullies. And if private citizens can have drones with which to invade the privacy of others, why can't private citizens video the actions of those in their employ? Just sayin'.

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  49. Joe Daddario A great idea, and already in place in countless schools across the country. Maybe you should try and stay on topic and not be so reactionary?

    [EDIT] Using words like, "libtard" really makes it hard to take you seriously…

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  50. I want to know who the judge is in this case. He should be removed formt he bench immedietly for being a fascist.

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  51. Anthony Tidd I am far from ignorant……but nice try though. Continue to feed the fire and i will try to get people to understand that picking sides in this government is not the way to go and that lib or cons or what ever names we give people might just be the reason we can not get anything done………

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  52. Kathleen Neumayer No…pigs and teachers are not the same thing and just to let you know….as i work with kids in a school i find taht the parents have their heads so far up there ass it makes me want to puke……teachers are not the issue…the system is……….i.e. common core

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  53. Joe Daddario maybe we should focus our attention on bettering our parenting skills and creating sound, well adjusted moralistic children with common sense,compassion and self awareness to live outside the homes walls and make.better choices and have enough residence to not engage but to lift other people up maybe we should. Focus in that you narrow.minsed fool.

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  54. Who said anything about picking sides? Who said I wasn't for the right to video tape police officers? I am simply illustrations your ignorance based off your initial comment to Joe. Just as much as I think we should be able to video tape law enforcement, I believe we should be able to video tape teachers among others in authority. It's our only way to expose the blatant abuse of power.

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  55. Courtney, it's hard for parents to get ahead when the government is always involved. Our government keeps taking more and more rights away from the parents, it's only time when we have no rights. Spare us your bullshit rhetoric, "We need better parenting.", although it is true to some extent, it is also very misleading regarding the real issues we face. The public school system is out of control. You know what they say, if you control the flow of information, you control the population.

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  56. This is crap. Who cares if the first ammendment doesn't specifically say we can film the police.
    It's well established that people in public places have no reasonable expectation of privacy. I can film anything I want as long as I'm not illegally trespassing.
    Kiss my ass.

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  57. It's my opinion these types of actions and all other that occure by authorities that violate the constitution is an act of sedition against the citizens.

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  58. Christopher Todd Paper terrorist? Do you realize how stupidly infophobic you sound?

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  59. Ruprecht Enoch Gern watch your mouth little boy. you used it anyways. so shut the hell up.moron!

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  60. A man taking pictures up a 13 year old skirt at a store was deemed not illegal but filming police is? That makes perfect sense…..smdh

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  61. Fascinating how right leaning minds can be so against transparency in police actions, as if helping to cover up a potential governmental injustice is a patriotic act.

    …of course if the potentially abusive police action was focused on themselves or their loved ones and no evidence existed but their own words versus multiple officers I imagine they would suddenly find empathy.

    I wish people could stop choosing their opinions on the basis of whether they perceive the issue to be a Democrat versus Republican ideological talking point.

    Public officials need to be able to be publically scrutinized with tangiable recorded evidence.

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  62. People act like preventing citizens from video recording police incidents is going to prevent dissemination of information, which it won't because the same people who are recording can still report on potential abusive incidents verbally.

    What it will accomplish is to make such reports less accurate, and as such proponents of video bans should restate their positions as not being against police scrutiny, but being against accurate police scrutiny.

    Also pro-recording ban citizens should consider how they would feel if laws were passed preventing citizen witnesses on the scene from verbally reporting on such incidents, again keeping in mind the information would still be getting disseminated, just less accurately. It is in this point we start to recognize a dangerous precedent for a democratic society, namely the establishment of a police force that can operate in secrecy in plain view through threat of reprisal against citizens, or in so many words a secret police force.

    Also such pro-video ban arguments give away a less spoken point of view of such people, namely that the police officer is likely guilty of abuse in such cases, but they don't want them to be held accountable; to restate, if a police officer was not guilty of abusive conduct the relative objectivity of the video recording device would vindicate them, favoring the exoneration of innocent police officers.

    So if one’s point of argument is that they don’t want abusive police officers prosecuted because they perceive themselves as “pro-police”, then I have the similar contempt for them as people who condone the Catholic Church’s efforts to cover-up pedophile priests because they perceive themselves to be “pro-church”.

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  63. People act like preventing citizens from video recording police incidents is going to prevent dissemination of information, which it won't because the same people who are recording can still report on potential abusive incidents verbally.

    What it will accomplish is to make such reports less accurate, and as such proponents of video bans should restate their positions as not being against police scrutiny, but being against accurate police scrutiny.

    Also pro-recording ban citizens should consider how they would feel if laws were passed preventing citizen witnesses on the scene from verbally reporting on such incidents, again keeping in mind the information would still be getting disseminated, just less accurately.

    It is in this point we start to recognize a dangerous precedent for a democratic society, namely the establishment of a police force that can operate in secrecy in plain view through threat of reprisal against citizens, or in so many words a secret police force.

    Also such pro-video ban arguments give away a less spoken point of view of such people, namely that the police officer is likely guilty of abuse in such cases, but they don't want them to be held accountable; to restate, if a police officer was not guilty of abusive conduct the relative objectivity of the video recording device would vindicate them, favoring the exoneration of innocent police officers.

    So if one’s point of argument is that they don’t want abusive police officers prosecuted because they perceive themselves as “pro-police”, then I have the similar contempt for them as people who condone the Catholic Church’s efforts to cover-up pedophile priests because they perceive themselves to be “pro-church”.

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  64. Haadiya Rani $97 an hour and you've made less than 900 in a month. Not only are you a spamming looser but you obviously failed math. Bad job lol

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  65. Are we in Russia, North Korea or Zimbabwe where photographing the Police is illegal or this is 2016 Democratic USA?

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  66. Maybe the same rules should apply to government spying on citizens. If any government employees spy, film, and record US citizens that should constitute the same breach in constitutional protection. If police do not wish to have surveillance done to them by private individuals or groups, governments should not be allowed to have surveillance done to private individuals and groups.

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  67. Why are police so afraid of being film? If you have nothing to hide then what is the problem?

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  68. Colorado To Fine Cops $15,000 Every Time They Try To Stop You From Recording Them

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  69. The SUPREME COURT has "Already Ruled" on this matter, which makes this whole thing . . . MUTE !.

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  70. Despite the purported correction, there is still the following sentence in the 4th paragraph:

    "The appeals court was specifically tasked with…."

    That should be "The DISTRICT court was specifically tasked…."

    I haven't read the linked opinion, but if the article's description of the district court's ruling is otherwise accurate, then Eugene Volokh is correct in predicting that it will be overturned on appeal.

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  71. Joe Daddario : I will not stoop to calling "Joe Daddario" names. I will merely point out that his comment is entirely irrelevant and non-responsive to William Bassett's comment. Perhaps a course in critical thinking is in order.

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  72. I would like to encourage people to be very forgiving of these people ..the people at the helm of the thought police its real and its system …the govt system of beraucracyy and the use of computer to brain interface ,brain to brain interface, brain to brain nterface .this is gone viral such as a virus on a program or system it is a bringing down of a country its been i.plemented not thru microwave frequencies o ly but connecting in and thru other forms such as wifi .and corrupting steets and officers .govt is in wrong by hiding these technologies and doing studies with out consent and proper advice of its ability and its total control of humans through its use(mind control .mental illness ,over dramatized events ,violence in relationships .seering pains headaches and applicatioions and forms of thinkin and the forcing with out consent constrictive thinkin on the un educated im sayin publicly theyve murdered police officers imposed santions and decisions life altering on educated people but problem is its common man n others in the dark are at risk of being victimized .there pin nmbrs are at risk there life secrets and sacred ideas of bisiness of walks of life of traditions have been bilked and stolen .its an invasion of ones mind .and a natural ability being misused for evil . Look up things like gang stalkin remote nueral monitoring. An attack of information and goes against mankind .its scientist playing god in choosing a constrictive decision making program for many many people look it up arm urself prepare yourself

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  73. What bothers me is that our court system could make such a determination, clearly in violation of the First Amendment. This judge should be taken off of the Bench and disbarred.

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