WASHINGTON — A freelance photographer has won $45,000 in a settlement stemming from a 2011 incident in Wheaton, Maryland, when he was arrested while videotaping police.
Mannie Garcia, who held White House press credentials for decades, had been recording the arrest of two Hispanic men by Montgomery County police.
According to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, officers grabbed Garcia — putting him in a chokehold at one point — and placed him under arrest. Garcia was charged with disorderly conduct but later acquitted.
His suit also contended that the officers took his camera, removed the video card and returned the camera, but not the video card.
Garcia alleged that it was a violation of his constitutional rights, including his First and Fourth Amendment rights. He also argued that his ability to work had been compromised by the incident, because his White House credentials had been suspended pending the outcome of the case.
Garcia’s attorney, Robert Corn-Revere, said the settlement is important not only for professional journalists, but also for average citizens. “It helps clarify the law — that both reporters and citizens have a First Amendment right to document police doing their duties in public places,” he said.
Along with the $45,000 settlement, an award of legal fees and costs associated with the suit are expected to be decided later.
The recovery of legal costs, Corn-Revere said, “underscores to governments that violate people’s rights that doing so isn’t free.”
“This was never about the money,” Corn-Revere told WTOP. “This was really about making sure that this kind of thing never happens again to anyone else.”
Corn-Revere added that it was gratifying to learn that Montgomery County police have issued new guidelines in a training bulletin that outlines how officers should handle situations in which they are being recorded.
The bulletin was dated Jan. 12, 2017, days before the parties in the suit went into mediation, the lawyer noted.
“We’re pleased that the county has decided to adopt new training procedures for police to make sure that they understand that the First Amendment protects the right to record the police,” Corn-Revere said.