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Mass. Man Charged With Wiretapping For Filming Police In Public

A man in Fall River, Mass. has been charged with unlawful wiretapping for recording a police officer shouting profanities in public.

During the Jan. 6 encounter, 51-year-old George Thompson overheard officer Thomas Barboza swearing profusely while talking on a cell phone across the street from his home.

“Every other word out of his mouth he was dropping the f-bomb,” Thompson told WPRI 12.

Seeing Barboza continue to swear as others walked through his neighborhood, Thomas says he then asked the officer to refrain from using foul language.

“He said, ‘Why don’t you shut the f up and mind your f’ing business?'” Thomas said.

As the officer continued his conversation, Thompson pulled out his cell phone and began recording Barboza’s unprofessional behavior.

Noticing the cell phone camera, Barboza immediately stopped what he was doing and ran onto Thompson’s front porch before placing him in handcuffs.

“He comes running up the stairs to me, looks right into the camera and he said, ‘You f’ing welfare bum, I’m arresting you,'” Thompson explained.

According to police documents, Thompson, who spent the night in jail, received a resisting arrest charge on top of the wiretapping charge as well.

Fall River Police Chief Daniel Racine was quick to defend the officer’s actions, claiming Thompson had violated the law by “secretively” recording Barboza.

“I think we all have our basic rights and I think people should not record others surreptitiously or secretively,” Racine said.

According to Mass. state law, it is a crime to audio record anyone, even public officials, without them knowing. Many consider the law null and void given the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the right to film police in public, who have no expectation of privacy just like the general citizenry.

According to Racine, Officer Barboza did admit to swearing while on the phone and received a one day suspension for his conduct.

While Barboza’s police report claims Thompson was attempting to film secretly, Thompson outright denies the claim and says he had his arm completely outstretched as he filmed. Unfortunately, the cell phone footage was mysteriously deleted in police custody two days after the incident.

Racine alluded to the fact that he believed Thompson remotely deleted the cell phone footage despite Thompson never denying that he filmed in the first place. Racine also threatened felony charges to the responsible party while claiming any officer involved would lose their job.

“I wanted the police to see it, I wanted everybody in the city to see it,” Thompson said.

As countless police departments across the country engage in massive and unconstitutional surveillance of innocent people, many citizens attempting to legally film police are being met with violence.

Just last month, a young man in Maryland was harassed and assaulted by police for filming an arrest. Despite being among a large crowd of people, the man was specifically targeted and told he had “lost” his First Amendment for daring to document the officers’ actions.

One week prior, a Florida woman was assaulted as well for trying to legally record her own traffic stop. After being forced to spend the night in jail, officers dropped all charges and let her go despite telling her initially that her actions were illegal.

That same month, a man in New York was assaulted and arrested for filming a police encounter from more than 30 feet away. The offending officer’s claims were soon found to be false after the man’s footage, which the officer had deleted, was recovered from the phone.

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About Mikael Thalen

Mikael Thalen is an investigative journalist covering foreign policy, information security and digital surveillance. His reports have been cited by sites such as the New York Times, Computerworld, International Business Times and the Drudge Report. How to contact Mikael securely:

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  1. Ah yes. To Protect and Serve. Another fine example of "Our Boys in Blue".

    What a jerk.

    It figure this would be in Mass.
    Once the Cradle of the Revolution, it has devolved into Commie Central.

  2. Imagine that the footage was deleted.

    Cops are just thugs

    • Are they? This story points out that while it may be the law, it is a bad law.

      People need to contact their state legislators and push to have this flaw fixed.

      • They sure are

        • The western system, no mullahs to make pronouncements. Just the will of the people pushing representatives into doing their will.

          We need it restored, not a revolution.

          Why did this guy give the cop a hard time, he was across the street speaking into a cell phone and the guy could have just left him alone.

          • Restoration comes through revolution. Your way has failed.

            Now quit harassing me. YOU file a law suit against me and 12 others and you continue to harrass us. We have asked time and time again for you to stop. I am already working on a restraining order

          • Not for Calvin Coolidge.

            Wee, just because you don't like my pointing out you are wrong doesn't mean it's harassment.

            It just means you're pushing flawed positions. And debate is not always heart warming for both sides.

          • You never showedd I was wrong. Your way has failed like you.Harrrasment is illegal, you do know that right. I mena how f en stupid are you? You file a law suit against me ae just and continue to harrass me. That alone shows you are insane. But hey you will lose in the end.

          • If you knew about Calvin Coolidge you would know I did show you were wrong.

          • Do you even live in the USA?

          • Of course.
            And it needs a return to the constitutional values that made us a success.

          • You mean the constitutional values that, shortly after the ink of the founding lawyers' pens had dried, had the president at the head of a standing army going off to punish tax avoided and laws forbidding seditious speech. Unseemly gotten worse since.

          • What movie did you pull that from?

          • And if you had bothered to notice, it had content, was about unimportant issue and was focused enough to lay out my ideas in a readable manner.

            You might want to focus on content over cute fake guest profile names.

          • Roger, if you said that above, referring to this:

            Roger 172p · 38 minutes ago
            What movie did you pull that from?

            Then clearly you have lost your mind.

            In that comment?

            I am really afraid you need incarcerated.

          • That was in response to your pretending the founding fathers ignored their rights as soon as the ink dried.

          • 1 comment every 2 minutes.
            Does anybody know if Roger got another spanking from zeb?
            HPD is now his ally, he keeps his comments thumbed up.

          • The guest troll who marches in lock step with his agenda sure does pretend I'm the only one that knows people who value the same constitutional freedoms I advocate for.

          • You are fond of saying that words have meaning.

            The way you torture English, you should be glad they don't have fists.

          • He did say this once:

            Roger 165p • 6 minutes ago
            No, you know I'm not for the things that made this country great.

  3. Its good that the media reports about these incidents. You would think that things like this go on in Russia but not in a democratic country… Time to spread the news about this…

  4. Mr. Thompson was absolutely in the right in this situation. He is my hero. I wish there were many more like him.

  5. Nov 13, 2012 Judge Napolitano; Theodore and Woodrow: How Two American Presidents Destroyed Constitutional Freedom

    • Mark Levin feels that Wilson changing the nature of the Senate destroyed the States ability to get representation on a national level. I have to wonder how much of this would be happening if the republican governor of Nevada could recall and replace Reid.

      • They did alter freedom from the beginning of the twentieth century until today. Here is the best path to restore the Republic.

        All the provisions for decentralization of power are present in the 9th and 10th amendments, already. THAT is the path to starving the Beast, to secession-via-nullification. Why even secede? Rescue the states from their satrap status and return them to the fore of the citizen's life; before the War of Northern Aggression, people considered themselves citizens of their state, not "The" (singular) United States which were then called "These United States"

        • Yes, I have to agree with all of that.

          And as much as I realize that means the states will have to organize I don't trust them to do it right.

          Mark Levin calls for the constitutional amendment process that the states use, to bypass the hacks in DC, it may be necessary. But I'm not comfortable trusting any politician with my freedoms.

  6. Dan Dicks Gets Kicked Out Of CPAC 2014

    Mar 8, 2014 While covering CPAC in Washington DC Dan Dicks of Press For Truth was in line to speak with Newt Gingrich when security and police officers out of nowhere removed him from the line and escorted him off the property with the instructions that if he returns he'll be arrested. Free speech is under attack and we must support the alternative independent media if we truly want to break free from the oppressions of the state.

  7. Since the police committed a crime and destroyed the evidence then what proof do they have that the man standing on his own front porch recorded anything . If they admit they destroyed the evidence of the officers disorderly conduct then they should be charged.

  8. The updated report makes it clear that that son of a bitch Racine was implying that he wanted to press felony charges against the citizen for evidence tampering through the icloud service of erasing the video. Notice he says if the cop did it, they would only loose their job, but the DA would suddenly have to make the decision to charge a cop…. BULLSHIT…. Badges don't grant extra rights… Chief Racine sucks.

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