The following was written on Saturday, September 24th using a pencil and paper provided by a “Corrections” Officer at the Cheshire County Department of Corrections.
Cecilia, Kate and I entered the Cheshire County Superior Courthouse at around 8:30AM on Friday, September 23rd. My mission that morning was to report on the Habeas Corpus Hearing for Ian Freeman. Ian is the host of the nationally-syndicated radio show Free Talk Live and is the founding blogger at FreeKeene.com.
Truth be told, I didn’t want to record the hearing for several reasons. First, I’m just returning from Connecticut where I was recovering from a nasty case of the flu. Still not feeling 100%, I arrived in Keene after 4PM on Thursday and learned that no one else was planning to record the hearing. That’s the second reason. The third is that I don’t like the anxiety that I feel when I think about video recording in the Cheshire County Superior Court. It’s speculation on my part but it is likely that many people feel similarly terrorized when doing something as simple as peacefully recording public servants in this particular government building. I don’t like living in fear so I decided to record despite the recent threats made by Judge John Arnold of the Cheshire County Superior Court. I shouldn’t have to be afraid, especially when I’m doing what’s right – like making the government more transparent by recording and reporting on the actions of public servants. After learning on Thursday night that no one had plans to record Ian’s hearing the following morning, I told James Schlessinger Jr, the producer of Free Keene TV, that I would not be recording Ian Freeman’s hearing.
Using a recording device (audio, video, photo) to report on government activities in this particular courthouse would likely result in hired men stealing the reporter’s equipment and/or their freedom. It could also result in a reporter being dragged across the floor by handcuffs and being locked in a cage for more than three days of solitary confinement.
That’s what happened to me, and I’ll detail that story more in a future report.
By Friday morning, I ended up deciding to record after reigning in my fear. I couldn’t allow myself to be pushed around by judicial terrorism. If I were in Ian’s place, I would have wanted someone to record my business with the court, so I decided to extend the same courtesy and record Ian’s hearing.
Upon entering the Cheshire County “Superior” Court with Cecelia and Kate, I exchanged my bag containing my gear for a ticket, and told the court security employee (CSE) that I would be audio & video recording. The CSE told me that I needed to ask permission 48 hours in advance. I planned to explain my circumstances (just arriving in Keene the previous night) on the motion to record with the Clerk of the Court at the nearby window.
I walked through the metal detector as instructed and my belt, as usual, set it off. I was checked by a handheld metal detector by the same man who a week prior hit my camera hard enough to make the battery fall out. This had happened outside the courthouse, on the sidewalk.
When he observed my belt he took note of my wearable camera that was clipped next to the metal buckle. I explained what it was and continued to walk to the nearby clerk’s window to fill out the motion to record the 9AM hearing that was scheduled to begin in 30 minutes. But before I was able to write anything down I was assaulted by two court security officers.
I was quickly pinned against a wall as one grabbed for my camera, the size of my thumb, on my belt. I was able to get to it first and hold onto it against my chest with both hands. This was when they handcuffed me. At some point I asked an empty court clerks window for a form to receive permission to record the hearing. No answer. After a handcuff was locked on my left wrist, my arms were forced behind my back and the right wrist was also shackled. I then dropped to my knees and sat down, resolute that I would not be assisting these two hired men in my own kidnapping. They were the ones committing aggression against a peaceful reporter so they would be the ones responsible for their violence.
The man hired by the court who had previously damaged my high definition camera was now dragging me by the handcuffs behind my back across the courthouse lobby. I don’t remember making any noise at this point but Kate must have seen the pain on my face and told the agressive court staff that they were causing me extraordinary pain.
The court employee got me into an elevator where I reminded him that he was violating his oath to the U.S. Constitution by infringing on my 1st Amendment rights (in addition to the NH Constitution and other laws). He and I went down one floor where the Cheshire County Sheriff’s Department is located. There, four deputies were waiting. I was told to stand up by one of these deputies and I replied that they would not receive any assistance from me. The four of them picked my handcuffed body up and took me to a holding cell where they set me on the floor next to a toilet. One of the deputies, in plain clothes, kicked me in the ribs before locking me in the cage, where I spent seven hours in isolation.
The court, and I presume the Sheriff’s Department, closes at 4PM so deputies picked me up and put me in a wheelchair. They then loaded me into the back of one of their vehicles and drove me to the Cheshire County Corrections Facility where I would spend the rest of the weekend and much of Monday. I’ll be publishing the rest of this story in future reports on Talley.TV, so stay tuned.