Liberty Is Imperiled When Men Hide Behind Bad Laws

[facebook_ilike]

When taping your own traffic stop becomes illegal

By: Scott Cochran, Editor

Last March Anthony Graber was riding his Ducati in Maryland on I-95 in an illegal and unsafe manner. That is not disputed. In fact, Graber was recording himself with a video camera on his helmet.

Because of that video, Graber might be going to jail. Not for reckless riding, but for illegally taping the police officers who stopped him.

The bruhaha began when Graber posted the video on YouTube. In it, Graber pulls off an exit where he’s stopped by traffic and a plain unmarked car pulls up beside him and a white male jumps out with a handgun and quickly approaches him yelling to turn off the motorcycle. It is approximately 5 seconds before the plainclothes police officer identifies himself, and a few seconds after that a marked unit pulls up behind Graber.

When Graber is allowed to take his gear off, he turns off the video recorder, but when asked by the officer if he was being recorded, he denies it was on. I can only conjecture that he believed the recording would have been confiscated had he admitted the officer was taped.

Once posted online, Maryland State Police sought to prosecute Graber for “illegally wiretapping police activity” and sent a request to the State’s Attorney in Harford County.

Graber was arrested again and charged with a wiretap felony and could spend years in prison if convicted.

Within days of the story breaking online, civil libertarians and bloggers lit up the internet like fireworks on the Fourth of July.

A spokesman for the State Police deny the wiretap charge is retaliation for Graber having exposed the department’s heavy handed Gestapo type actions.

“This is not some capricious retribution,” said Shipley, calling Graber the type of reckless driver troopers “are peeling … off the backs of tractor-trailers and off the curbs.” He said the audio recording of the traffic stop “is a violation of the law. Period. That’s what our job is. We’re not going to apologize for doing our job.”

And there’s where I have a problem with it.

The attitude of “It’s the law and we’re not going to apologize for doing our job.”

What prosecutors in Maryland are using is a law written to prevent “voice” recordings. Had Graber deleted the audio portion, or garbled it before he posted it, then he wouldn’t be in trouble.

As a former plan clothes police officer I can appreciate the situation the Maryland State Police find themselves in, but the public should have the right to record traffic stops, the same as law enforcement. The plain-clothes officer gave up his rights to anonymity when he took himself out of the role of detective/investigator and participated in the traffic pursuit.

There are thousands of hard working, honest and dedicated law enforcement officers who risk their lives on a daily basis to protect and serve the citizens in their jurisdictions. This is by no means a slur on their character and integrity.

However, when men in authority seek to hide behind immoral laws to protect their ambitions, or to justify bad behavior, then it becomes the duty of free men to demand the law be changed.

My problem is with a law that disregards the civil rights of individuals, while providing those in authority with the legal means to prevent oversight by the public. Laws, such as these, foster and even encourage abuse of power, all in the name of “we’re just doing our job.”

This law, written with the intent to protect law enforcement, judges and officers of the court from illegal wiretaps and electronic eavesdropping without their consent was never meant to prevent private citizens from recording the activities of police in a public venue.

To misuse this statute in this manner is ethically and morally wrong. To stand by without protesting its use is also morally wrong.

But, let’s be clear on one thing, Graber was breaking the law. I watched his YouTube video and I think his actions on his motorcycle were irresponsible and criminal. He placed himself and others at great risk. High speed pursuits are dangerous to the public and the police officers who are involved in them.

Charge him with every traffic violation he committed. If combined they reach the level of felony endangerment and he loses his license and his freedom, then so be it. But to jail him for posting a video online he recorded in plain view on a public highway is not only wrong, it is a violation of his civil rights, and one that should outrage every American.

As for the plain-clothes officer who approached Graber with his gun drawn before identifying himself, he should be reprimanded. Nothing more or less. He was overzealous, but that’s it. Maybe next time he’ll let the uniform officers do their job and he’ll stick to his.

The greatest threat to our democracy does not come from without, but from within. We must jealously safeguard our liberties and protest vigorously when they are threatened.

Until next month, Ride Safe, and always take the road less traveled.


Funny Caption Contest

We received this image from Strip Club Choppers as a part of a recent photo

what's your funniest caption?

shoot.  And while it’s obvious the girl has talent, we know our readers and fans will come up with some pretty funny photo captions.  The winner receives a USRN embroidered one-size fits all cap.  Whoo Hooo!

(comment here or on Facebook)

Kuryakyn on the New Two Wheel Thunder


Kuryakyn releases a sneek peek of a few segments which feature their products on the new Two Wheel Thunder.  The new show premiers tomorrow, (Monday June 8th on Discovery HD.  For a complete schedule, click here.

Kyle Petty Ride Across America Begins Soon

Approximately 200 motorcycle enthusiasts, NASCAR fans and Victory Junction supporters will hit the road May 1 – 9, 2010 for the 16th Anniversary Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America. The Ride will travel from Indian Wells, Calif. to Victory Junction in Randleman, N.C., to raise awareness and funds for Victory Junction. As they travel across the country, the Charity Ride participants will greet fans and supporters at overnight stops in North Las Vegas, Nev.; Richfield, Utah; Durango, Colo.; Amarillo, Texas; Texarkana, Texas; Choctaw, Miss.; Chattanooga, Tenn.; and Asheville, N.C.

Since the Charity Ride’s inception in 1995, more than 6,400 participants have logged more than 9.1 million cumulative motorcycle miles, traveled through 48 states, and donated more than $13 million to Victory Junction and other charities that support chronically ill children. The Petty’s opened Victory Junction in 2004 in honor of their son Adam, whose life dream was to help children with terminal illnesses.

The year-round camp serves children, ages six to 16, whose health issues would typically prevent them from attending camp. Campers attend at no cost to their families, and transportation costs are covered, if needed. The camp operates solely on the donations of corporations, organizations and individuals. As a result of the Charity Ride, more than 7,000 children have attended Victory Junction free of charge. Last year, the Petty’s broke ground on a second Victory Junction in Kansas City, Kan.

“With the economy continuing to struggle, these children and their families need our support now more than ever,” said Petty. “Victory Junction provides life-changing opportunities for deserving children and their families and it’s our hope that we are able to raise funds to impact many lives, despite the current economic challenges. Pattie and I are excited to hit the road with our fellow riders, sponsors and fans again this year. Riding across America provides unforgettable memories and lasting friendships for everyone involved.”

Fans and spectators are encouraged to create “Dream Teams” that work together to host fundraisers in advance of the Charity Ride to help send a child to camp at Victory Junction. Dream Teams that attend one of the Ride “pit stops” will have the opportunity to present their donation to Petty, which helps to provide these children the memory of a lifetime.

Petty continued, “Adam’s passion for helping children drove him to think of new ways to impact their lives. His dream of opening a racing-themed camp for children with chronic medical conditions or serious illnesses lives on today at Victory Junction. Please join us this year in ‘Keeping the Dream Alive,’ honoring Adam Petty by supporting the Charity Ride.”

Sponsors of the 2010 Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America include Coca-Cola, Pilot Travel Centers LLC, Racing Electronics, Wincraft Racing and FLUIDYNE Racing Products. To inquire about additional sponsorship opportunities, please call the Kyle Petty Charity Ride office at (704) 714-4545.

About The Kyle Petty Charity Ride
Led by NASCAR driver and racing analyst Kyle Petty, the Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America raises awareness of and funds for Victory Junction and other charities supporting chronically ill children. The Charity Ride is one of the most successful and popular charity events in the country. Now in its 16th year, the Charity Ride has donated more than $13 million to Victory Junction and other children’s charities, with 6,400 participants logging more than 9.1 million cumulative motorcycle miles. In 2010, celebrities, ride sponsors and motorcycle enthusiasts will travel from Indian Wells, Calif. to Randleman, N.C. from May 1-9. For more information about the Charity Ride, please visit www.kylepettycharityride.com.

About Victory Junction
Victory Junction is a year-round camping environment for children ages six to 16 with chronic medical conditions or serious illnesses. Founded by Kyle and Pattie Petty in honor of their son Adam, the camp is located in Randleman, N.C., with a second location opening soon in Kansas City, Kan. Victory Junction offers programs for 24 disease groups and maintains strong relationships with 26 partner hospitals. Victory Junction’s mission is to provide life-changing camping experiences that are exciting, fun and empowering, in a safe and medically-sound environment. As a not-for-profit organization, the camp operates solely through the support of generous donors to provide this experience at no charge to children and their families. For more information about Victory Junction, please visit www.victoryjunction.org.


Quick Fact on Fringe.. Practical or Fashion Statement?

By: John Turner.

In times not so long ago, fashion statements in clothing were the exclusive province of the wealthy, the well heeled, the aristocratic breed if you will. For us mere peasants the idea of clothing was more utilitarian where the popular “form follows function” statement was the obvious choice.

Here is one example of that principle that may be somewhat lost in the fashion statement of today’s motorcycle rider. There are quite a few very nicely constructed leather jackets for men and women with fringe adorning the arms and in some cases the front and the backs.

Now for us this is a fashion statement. Our leathers are usually made from some sort of cow hide or pigs hide or something of that type because these are herd animals for which everything except the “moo” or the “oink” is used for some product.

I call this my “Paul Harvey” moment. Because here is the rest of the story!

Our ancestors, especially the American Indians and our 19th century cowboys had leathers too. Most of their leathers were made of deerskin however. That fringe we see as decoration for us today was far more practical for the Native American or cowboy caught out in the elements. Because of the absorption characteristics of tanned deerskin the water will soak into the hide, but the fringe was placed on the arms, the front and the back to quickly wick the water away from the body and drip off thereby keeping the core body temperature from dropping. Since nothing will chill the body faster than wet and cold.

Some of you already knew this. But I bet for most this is one of those tidbits of knowledge that will make you say “those folks back then had to deal with some pretty rough times, so I guess they figured things out the way a human being is capable of doing”.