They can record and videotape and wiretap us all they want, but try to record “an official” in a public space and you could be looking at hard prison time. This is the 21st Century one-way mirror: They can scrutinize us, but we can’t scrutinize them. What, did you think you were their equal or something?
Michael Allison, a 41-year-old backyard mechanic from southeastern Illinois, faces up to 75 years in prison for an act most people don’t realize is a crime: recording public officials.
Allison lives in Bridgeport, Illinois, and often spends time at his mother’s house in Robinson, one county to the north. Both towns have abandoned property (or “eyesore”) ordinances prohibiting the parking of inoperable or unregistered vehicles on private property except in enclosed garages. These rules place a substantial burden on hobbyists like Allison; to obey the law he must either build a garage—which he says isn’t an option, given his property and his income—or register, plate, and pay insurance on every car he fixes up, even though he never drives them on public roads. So Allison kept working on his cars, and the city of Bridgeport kept impounding them: in 2001, 2003, and 2005.
In 2007 Allison filed a lawsuit against the city, alleging the law was a violation of his civil rights and a scheme to collect revenue through impound fees. He then resumed tinkering with unregistered vehicles in his mother’s driveway in Robinson. By Allison’s account, police officers in Robinson began harassing him with threats of fines or arrest for violating that town’s ordinance, though Allison alleges the harassment was personal—retaliation for his lawsuit back in Bridgeport. That’s when he began recording his conversations with cops.
Read the rest at Reason.com.