Illegal conviction for investigating police wrongdoing
In New Hampshire recording another person in a phone coversation without their consent is a misdemeanor. Ademo Mueller recorded a phone conversation he had with a police officer ( a very short one) asking the officer about what seemed to be clearly an unnecessary use of force by another officer assigned to a high school.
Well, Mr. Mueller was charged and convicted of felonies by the prosecution, though to meet the guideline of a felony conviction one needs to intercept a phone call and not just be a party to it. Clearly Mr. Mueller was not this, even under this very questionable law. Why the judge did not throw out these clearly wrongly applied felony charges, I have no idea.
The application of the law in this case, is clearly motivated by revenge to get Mr. Mueller, who started a police watchdog site, called CopBlock. There is in this nation, a clear lack of independence between prosecutors and police when there are conflicts of interest. Now, I wonder how many cases are actually prosecuted per year in New Hampshire under this wiretapping law?
The fact is this law in its' misdemeanor form serves to reduce and restrict press and speech freedom. It reduces the ability to investigate wrongdoing of not only police but business or other officials. It reduces the effectivness of investigative journalism. After all, if a corrupt official does not have to worry if he/she is being recorded while making statement revealing wrongdoing or trying to cover up evidence or information, that gives him or her much less to worry about. By the way, if someone saves a text message, is that wiretapping?
Amazingly, even though jurors were told they have the right ( a right going back under common law before we were even a nation) to nullify unjust and unwarranted application of laws (such as for political reasons in this case) they did not do so. They were good little boys and girls, so to speak, and convicted Mr. Mueller. Even though it was quite clear that the prosecution was politically motiviated. New Hampshire is the only state that clearly spells out to jurors this right, in other states jurors are denied this knowledge by the prosecution and judges.
On a good note there has been a subcomittee hearing on removing the misdemeanor language on this law, so requring actual intercept by a different party to the call or conversation. Something that Mr. Mueller did not do, but again that he was convicted under. This reform bill is HB 553, which you can as a New Hampshire resident or not, urge the NH Legislature’s Criminal Justice Committee to support.