Moral Low Ground

Civil Liberties

CopBlock.org Founder Adam ‘Ademo’ Mueller Faces 21 Years’ Prison for Reporting Police Brutality

(Photo: CopBlock.org)

A journalist who reported on police brutality against students at a New Hampshire high school is facing up to 21 years in prison for recording phone conversations with police and school officials in contravention of the state’s wiretapping laws.

Adam “Ademo” Mueller, 30, is a journalist and co-host of radio show Free Talk Live as well as the founder of CopBlock.org, an organization which seeks to hold police accountable for their actions. Mueller’s troubles stem from an October, 2011 video posted on CopBlock showing 17-year-old Frank Harrington, a student at Manchester High School West, being pulled up from his cafeteria seat by school police officer Darren Murphy and slammed face-first into a table.

What ‘crime’ warranted such brutality? Harrington had grabbed his sister’s purse and was “just messing around,” he said.

“She said she didn’t want it back,” Harrington told the Huffington Post. “I was going to give it back after lunch. The teachers involved themselves, said I stole it. She said ‘it’s no big deal; I’ll get it back later.'”

In addition to being brutalized by Officer Murphy, Harrington was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. He was suspended from school for 12 days; one day for ‘stealing’ his sister’s purse, 11 days for possession of a utility knife.

Seventeen-year-old student Michael Proulx witnessed the cafeteria incident and recorded it on his cell phone camera. A school official told him that it was illegal to film and ordered him to delete any images he recorded. He did not, and the footage ended up at CopBlock.org.

That’s when Mueller got involved. He contacted both the Manchester Police and school officials looking for answers. He recorded his conversations with a Manchester police captain as well as the school principal and a secretary. He then used portions of those recordings in a video post.

A few months later, Mueller was indicted for wiretapping. New Hampshire wiretapping laws criminalize the audio recording of an individual without first obtaining their permission. It is a class B felony to do so, punishable by prison terms from 3.5 to 7 years and a fine. Mueller faces three counts, and so could potentially be sentenced to as many as 21 years behind bars.

Mueller claims he was offered a plea deal of a two-year suspended sentence but rejected it.

“Here’s how I see the offer: it’s a stellar deal if I actually thought what I had done was wrong,” he wrote on CopBlock.org.

“I am confident I can show a jury, with facts and logic, that I shouldn’t be caged for my actions,” he wrote.

Mueller’s defense is that he identified himself as being from CopBlock.org during the recorded phone calls and that on-duty public officials in public spaces have no expectation of privacy. Supporters point to Glik v. Cunniffe, a 2011 case in which Simon Glik was arrested for recording Boston police making an arrest. Glik was charged with illegal wiretapping, aiding the escape of a prisoner and disturbing the peace. The case was thrown out of a Boston court and Glik then filed a federal civil rights lawsuit.

“Free Ademo” campaign has been launched in support of Mueller, with two dozen protesters showing up outside Hillsborough County Superior Court North during his jury selection on Monday.

“Good jurors nullify bad laws,” one sign read, a reference to a New Hampshire law that allows jurors to vote their conscience and hand down ‘not guilty’ verdicts even in cases where there is evidence that the defendant is guilty.

“The person who should face consequences is the officer who threw that poor kid into a table during lunch at the school cafeteria, not the journalist who reported about it,” Ian Freeman, co-host of Free Talk Live, said in a CNN iReport.

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