Sections

Neighborhoods

Features

Follow Us

NHI Newsletter

Some Favorite Sites

Government/ Community Links

Vindicated Cop-Photographer Sues City

by Thomas MacMillan | Sep 18, 2013 2:00 pm

(16) Comments | Commenting has been closed | E-mail the Author

Posted to: Legal Writes, Media

Thomas MacMIllan Photo Nearly three years after a top New Haven cop illegally had him arrested for filming police in action, Luis Luna is suing the city.

It’s one of two lawsuits his attorneys plan to file, both featuring cops, cameras, and internal affairs probes that found supervising officers at fault.

Luna (pictured) announced his lawsuit Wednesday afternoon on the steps of the federal courthouse on Church Street, the latest step in a saga that led to the rebuke of an assistant chief, a new police policy, and statewide debate on citizens’ rights.

With the help of attorneys Diane Polan and Max Simmons, Luna is suing the city, the police department, former Police Chief Frank Limon, former Assistant Police Chief Ariel Melendez and other cops. Luna claims the cops falsely arrested him, illegally seized his property, and violated his First Amendment rights when they arrested him and confiscated his iPhone on Sept. 25, 2010, a story first reported by the Independent.

Attorney Polan announced that she’s also planning to sue the city on behalf of Jennifer Gondola, a woman who, like Luna, was arrested while filming cops. In both cases, internal police probes found cops at fault.

Gondola was arrested while capturing footage that drew the attention of the FBI, showing a man’s neck being stepped on by police during an arrest. The case against Gondola was dismissed. The sergeant who arrested her and stepped on the man’s neck was suspended for 15 days following an internal affairs probe.

Asked Tuesday afternoon about Luna’s suit, city Corporation Counsel Victor Bolden responded:  “The city will review the lawsuit and respond accordingly at the appropriate time.”

On the steps of the federal courthouse, Polan (pictured with Luna and attorney Simmons) said she’s helping Luna sue the city because New Haven cops “believe they have the right to stop people from filming them.”

“We have to pay attention to this,” said Luna, a 29-year-old medical interpreter who lives in Wallingford. He said the case has “big repercussions not only in New Haven but on a national level.”

Polan noted that Melendez, who retired from the force with several complaints pending against him, collects a pension of over $120,000 per year.

Polan said Luna is asking for punitive damages of $500,000, plus a declaratory judgment that it is unlawful to arrest people filming cops. The New Haven police department is not training its cops to follow the law, Polan said.

“We have the right as citizens to record police because they are public servants,” Luna said.

Sept. 25, 2010

Early in the morning of Sept. 25, 2010, Luna was riding his bike on Crown Street when he came across some cops arresting three people near the corner of College Street. Luna pulled out his iPhone and began filming the action.

It is not illegal to record police action in public places, as long as the photographer does not interfere with cops.

Assistant Chief Melendez (at left in photo, with Chief Limon) approached him, asked what he was doing, and then grabbed his phone, Luna later recalled. Melendez ordered Luna arrested. Melendez then ordered an officer to erase the videos on Luna’s phones, according to a subsequent internal affairs investigation. Melendez subsequently retired from the force.

NHPD Photo Luna spent the rest of the night in jail. When he got his phone back in the morning, two videos had been erased, and one photo (pictured) had been added.

The Internal Affairs investigation found that Melendez had trampled Luna’s rights; it reads like a brief against the police department. The case against Luna was eventually dropped.

The police department subsequently issued a new policy for officers to follow to ensure that they don’t violate the rights of citizen photographers. Read about that here; click on the video to watch it being unveiled.

Luna’s arrest came during a crackdown on the city’s nightclub district, at a time when police were also facing a number of complaints about threats, violence and illegally preventing people from photographing or filming them.

Luna’s case led to state Sen. Martin Looney to introduce legislation explicitly protecting people who photograph cops. He failed to get the bill passed, but has vowed to keep working on it.

 

Tags: , , ,

Share this story with others.

Share |

Post a Comment

Comments

posted by: NewHavenTaxTooHigh on September 18, 2013  2:36pm

So, what exactly are his damages and why is he suing this great city? So, the cops were wrong and as a result he spent a night in jail. Not a pleasant experience but not a major ordeal. I can’t imagine that the suit is worth much.

posted by: HhE on September 18, 2013  2:46pm

Arresting Mr. Luna was dead wrong.  As a tax payer, I am not terribly happy about him sueing the city.  If if, like our worker’s comp system, there we standard compensations for false arrest and imprisionment, based upon time lost and level of malfeasance on the part of The State?

posted by: Trustme on September 18, 2013  2:52pm

I have seen so many fights on the streets and i have never filmed none of it, i just want to get to away from that area. But nowadays everyone grabs their cell phones and records, INSTEAD OF GOING HOME AND CLEARING THE STREETS. Let the police do their job and stop adding to the problem by creating a crowd and watching the commotion.  Mostly everyone doesn’t like to be videotaped, cops, perps, victims, a drunk girl on the ground, NOBODY, specially not by a stranger who enjoys chaotic scenes and putting it on Youtube or World Star Hip Hop. To everyone who loves to film meaningless incidents for no reason, mind your freaking business and carry on with your life. Lawsuits, The American way to make a buck, it’s sad. Hey Luna? Why were you filming the arrests of three girls? What was your intentions? I believe in the 1st Amendment and in a FREE country but if a crime is not being committed, carry on and don’t live on the behalf of someone else’s lives.

posted by: DRAD on September 18, 2013  3:32pm

Here’s why he should sue - ‘cause the only lessons the government, corporate America, or your next door neighbor ever learn are those that have a financial repercussions. A strongly worded letter, an unflattering news piece, a slap on the wrist - these do nothing - and by doing nothing in the face of tyranny, negligence or corruption, evil continues unabated.

posted by: darnell on September 18, 2013  3:53pm

Completely agree with DRAD. Putting the offending officer in jail for a few days might reduce their desire to falsely arrest folks. Until you experience it for yourself (which I have), any opinion attacking Luna is moot.

posted by: disconnect on September 18, 2013  4:05pm

All that is necessary for evil to prevail is for good people to do nothing. Which is why people who make a recording of crimes, fights, arrests, whatever are so goddamn important.

Hey coppers, if you’re not doing anything wrong, why are you so upset at being recorded?

posted by: Threefifths on September 18, 2013  4:26pm

So, what exactly are his damages and why is he suing this great city? So, the cops were wrong and as a result he spent a night in jail. Not a pleasant experience but not a major ordeal. I can’t imagine that the suit is worth much.

This is why Polan said Luna is asking for punitive damages of $500,000, plus a declaratory judgment that it is unlawful to arrest people filming cops. The New Haven police department is not training its cops to follow the law, Polan said.

The Internal Affairs investigation found that Melendez had trampled Luna’s rights; it reads like a brief against the police department. The case against Luna was eventually dropped.

Your answer.


posted by: Trustme on September 18, 2013 2:52pm

Mostly everyone doesn’t like to be videotaped, cops, perps, victims, a drunk girl on the ground, NOBODY, specially not by a stranger who enjoys chaotic scenes and putting it on You tube or World Star Hip Hop. To everyone who loves to film meaningless incidents for no reason, mind your freaking business and carry on with your life.

They are minding there business as citizens.Look at what happens when you mind your business.

Police Caught Planting Drugs In Small Business! Caught on camera.

http://youtu.be/eOliZWcHtt0

Police Brutality Beating A Woman Almost To Death Police Cover-Up

http://youtu.be/hLNNXCz9-gQ

posted by: Brutus2011 on September 18, 2013  4:42pm

Absolutely agree with “Drad.”

Tort law keeps those who wrong others “just because they can” in relative check.

This is one of the reasons I am becoming an attorney—so I can have the power to counter the misdeeds of those in power.

Instead of having the taxpayers foot the entire judgement award, the court should make the individual tortfeasor(s) pay a good portion of the award.

posted by: Trustme on September 18, 2013  4:59pm

If the police is doing something wrong, I agree and videotape but don’t add to the problem.

posted by: Trustme on September 18, 2013  5:28pm

Threefifths, you somehow misunderstood me. If the cops are wrong and being shady, I agree with you and film it. But it seems like this was not the case, why did Luna film 3 girls getting arrested? It sounds dumb. During downtown “Let-out” incidents, people love to get close and film and that causes more problems for the victims, perps, or officers and creates safety problems for everyone. Why cause more crowds? And why add to the nonsense?

posted by: darnell on September 18, 2013  7:17pm

Trustme:

Why did Luna tape the arrest? Well, because he can. Recently it has been revealed that our government is snooping on our phone call and email. Why do they do it? Well, because unfortunately our elected officials have passed a law allowing them to do so. So if you want to be concerned about something, perhaps you should focus on commenting and fighting our gov’t trampling of our privacy, instead of worrying about this citizen’s right to tape our public employees doing their public jobs while on the clock.

posted by: Threefifths on September 18, 2013  7:26pm

posted by: Trustme on September 18, 2013 5:28pm

Threefifths, you somehow misunderstood me. If the cops are wrong and being shady, I agree with you and film it. But it seems like this was not the case, why did Luna film 3 girls getting arrested? It sounds dumb. During downtown “Let-out” incidents, people love to get close and film and that causes more problems for the victims, perps, or officers and creates safety problems for everyone. Why cause more crowds? And why add to the nonsense?

What you fail to understand is that this is not so much of him taking pictures.It is about the violation of rights which says he can take pictures and about poilce cover up on this arrest.The question is does he have the right to take pictures of the police.Yes he does under the law.

posted by: Trustme on September 18, 2013  11:28pm

I understand that most of people are quickly to bash cops, who are trying to do their jobs, which is extremely hard.. A few city cops have absolutely nothing to do with our poorly ran government, so I don’t see the resemblance at all Darnell. And threefifths, yes he can film or take pics all he wants, (it is Luna’s right) just don’t add to the problem by creating bigger crowds and creating more chaos. And most people i watch filming all types of incidents are usually laughing, smerking, and enjoying themselves (having fun off of someone else’s bad moments). More civilians should go on police ride-alongs and learn and try to understand what these brave men and women have to go through the worst that society as to offer. Threefifths and Darnell, do you folks think that Luna deserves 500 hundred thousand beans, well I definitely don’t think so. So my point is, don’t add to the chaos.

posted by: teacherteacher on September 19, 2013  7:22am

I agree with DRAD also. Glad Mr. Luna is standing up for all of our rights.

posted by: Threefifths on September 19, 2013  11:19am

posted by: Trustme on September 18, 2013 11:28pm

I understand that most of people are quickly to bash cops, who are trying to do their jobs, which is extremely hard.. A few city cops have absolutely nothing to do with our poorly ran government, so I don’t see the resemblance at all Darnell. And threefifths, yes he can film or take pics all he wants, (it is Luna’s right) just don’t add to the problem by creating bigger crowds and creating more chaos

What is it you do not understand.His constitutional rights were violated.If you or anyone do not want to take pictues you do not have to.The 7th Circuit Court found a specific First Amendment right to record police officers. It’s the second federal appeals court to strike down a conviction for recording police. In August 2011, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit ruled that a man wrongly arrested for recording cops could sue the arresting officers for violating his First Amendment rights.

And most people i watch filming all types of incidents are usually laughing, smerking, and enjoying themselves (having fun off of someone else’s bad moments). More civilians should go on police ride-alongs and learn and try to understand what these brave men and women have to go through the worst that society as to offer. Threefifths and Darnell, do you folks think that Luna deserves 500 hundred thousand beans, well I definitely don’t think so. So my point is, don’t add to the chaos.

Again what does this have to do with His constitutional rights take pictues of the police doing there job.And yes he should get thefive hundred thousand.

posted by: kenneth_krayeske on September 19, 2013  12:37pm

Phil Chinn in Seattle’s false arrest was worth $418k. Police targeted him for protest and arrested him on specious grounds. Constitutional torts should be so expensive governments vigilantly guard against their commission.

http://www.seattleweekly.com/2010-06-09/news/watching-the-protesters/

Events Calendar

loading…

SeeClickFix »

Dead limb STILL overhanging sidewalk
Sep 1, 2014 1:41 pm
Address: 768-784 Elm Street (Sw Corner Elm And Norton) New Haven, Connecticut
Rating: 1

I first reported this a year ago: There is a large oak...

more »
Signs / Bus Shelters / Pavement Markings
Sep 1, 2014 1:26 pm
Address: Chester And Burwell New Haven, Connecticut
Rating: 3

The stop sign on the corner of this location has faded badly. The police were...

more »
*** REMOVE FOR SLOWDOWN ****

PosterWallAdd your Poster

Sponsors

N.H.I. Site Design & Development

smartpill design