I did not post earlier on this matter, wishing to let the dust settle, but Radley Balko’s excellent commentary and outrage — and I mean OUTRAGE — at the unconscionable actions by the Philadelphia District Attorney are well worth reading, so let me set the stage.
As reported in philly.com, the online service of The Philadelphia Inquirer, Mark Fiorino was walking in Northeast Philly openly carrying his .40-caliber Glock pistol. He was accosted by a Philadelphia cop, aiming a handgun at him. Unknown to the cop at the time, Fiorino was audio recording the encounter. The cop told him that carrying a firearm in Philadelphia was against the law — which it is, unless you have a firearms license. Fiorino not only had the license, but he also had it on him. According to philly.com’s recitation of the event transcript, here’s the exchange between Fiorino and the cops (you can hear parts of the audiotape during an interview of Fiorino found on YouTube — apparently the audiotape itself has been deleted):
Fiorino offered to show Dougherty his driver’s and firearms licenses. The cop told him to get on his knees.
“Excuse me?” Fiorino said.
“Get down on your knees. Just obey what I’m saying,” Dougherty said.
“Sir,” Fiorino replied, “I’m more than happy to stand here -”
“If you make a move, I’m going to f—— shoot you,” Dougherty snapped. “I’m telling you right now, you make a move, and you’re going down!”
“Is this necessary?” Fiorino said.
It went on like that for a little while, until other officers responded to Dougherty’s calls for backup.
Fiorino was forced to the ground and shouted at as he tried to explain that he had a firearms license and was legally allowed to openly carry his weapon.
“You f—— come here looking for f—— problems? Where do you live?” yelled one officer.
“I’m sorry, gentlemen,” Fiorino said. “If I’m under arrest, I have nothing left to say.”
“F—— a——, shut the f— up!” the cop hollered.
The cops discovered his recorder as they searched his pockets, and unleashed another string of expletives.
Fiorino said he sat handcuffed in a police wagon while the officers made numerous phone calls to supervisors, trying to find out if they could lock him up.
When they learned that they were in the wrong, they let him go.
Fiorino was angry enough at the encounter that he posted the audio to YouTube. That enraged the Philly cops even more. And it led Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams to file criminal charges against Fiorino, charging him “with reckless endangerment and disorderly conduct because, a spokeswoman said, he refused to cooperate with police.”
So here’s the sequence, in brief:
- Man is going about his business, legally carrying a firearm.
- Police accost him, and, ignorant of the laws they are sworn to uphold, threaten him, abuse him and detain him.
- Man asserts his rights, but in the end obeys unlawful police demands.
- Police eventually learn they are wrong, he was right, and they let him go.
- Man embarrasses the police.
- Police and the District Attorney get revenge by hitting man with bogus charges.
As I said, read Balko’s outrage. Here’s a small sample:
But while their behavior in this story was repugnant, at least the cops had the plausible explanation of ignorance for the initial confrontation, then fear for their safety when an armed man they incorrectly thought was violating the law pushed back (though neither is an excuse, and neither should exclude them from discipline). What Williams has done since is much worse. It is premeditated. Much more than the cops, Williams should know the law. Moreover, even if he didn’t know the law at the time, he has since had plenty of time to research it. By now, Williams does know the law. (If he doesn’t, he is incompetent.) And he knows that even if Fiorino did deliberately provoke the cops to test their knowledge of Philadelphia’s gun laws, that also is not a crime.
Yet he’s charging Fiorino anyway, with “reckless endangerment and disorderly conduct”—the vague sorts of charges cops and prosecutors often fall back on when they can’t show any actual crime. A spokesperson for Williams said Fiorino was “”belligerent and hostile” to police who were investigating a possible crime. Read the transcript of the audio in the linked article above and tell me who is “belligerent and hostile.” Read it knowing who was breaking the law, who was following it, and while remaining cognizant of which party was threatening to put a bullet in the head of the other.
I’ll Never Volunteer to Help Them Department
If you are a photographer or videographer, never volunteer to help the Marine Mammal Conservancy, at least not if you hope to also use your camera. It appears that they will at a minimum chastise you and delete your photos, and possibly report you to the authorities for having committed a felony of harassment of a marine mammal. Carlos Miller reports the story, which although it does not actually involve any governmental agency, certainly casts a bunch of do-gooders in a less than good light.
Gee, does that mean I committed a felony when photographing whales in Alaska?
Good thing none of them were good enough to upload to my site — but, hey, MMC-folk, I can show them to you if you’re interested. (I do have this one of sea lions, if they count:
Beyond Words Department
My own words cannot do justice to how stupid the Republicans are in Florida. Even Rachel Maddow seems nearly speechless at times. I’ll let her describe it:
(Since Rachel Maddow’s show repeats on MSNBC immediately following The Daily Show and The Colbert Report on Comedy Central, I’ve added her to my nightly dose of opportunities to view the world through absurdist lenses.)
Republicans Have Principles, After All, Department
You’ve heard the litany: get the government out of our lives; reduce red tape; don’t let government come between us and our doctors; no new taxes. Except when it comes to abortion services, that is. Then it’s Katie Bar the Door!
Again, Rachel Maddow served up the sad litany. Some from the Feds, but many, many travesties from newly Republican-controlled state legislatures, signed or to be signed by their Republican governors. From yesterday evening’s show, watch it and weep:
Coming Tomorrow to a Universe Near You Department
Finally this morning, this cheery thought: What would be your reaction if, as a teenager, your parents told you they were going to heaven and you couldn’t come along? That’s one of the questions asked by this morning’s NY Times in the article, “Make My Bed? But You Say the World’s Ending.”
Thousands of people around the country have spent the last few days taking to the streets and saying final goodbyes before Saturday, Judgment Day, when they expect to be absorbed into heaven in a process known as the rapture. Nonbelievers, they hold, will be left behind to perish along with the world over the next five months.
With their doomsday T-shirts, placards and leaflets, followers — often clutching Bibles — are typically viewed as harmless proselytizers from outside mainstream religion. But their convictions have frequently created the most tension within their own families, particularly with relatives whose main concern about the weekend is whether it will rain.
It would all be funny if it weren’t so sad. Thankfully (I almost said “Thank God”), no one in my family subscribes to this stuff. At least so far as I know.
Two friends, and they had fun.