Nabeel Qureshi, Paul Rezkalla, Negeen Mayel, and I were all charged with “Breach of Peace.” All four of us were found “not guilty,” due to indisputable video footage showing that we did nothing that would qualify as disturbing the peace.
However, Negeen was found guilty of “Failure to Obey a Police Officer’s Direction or Order,” which is defined as follows:
“Any individual who is given direction or order by hand, voice, emergency light, siren, or other visual or audible signal by a police officer acting in the lawful performance of his duty, and who willfully disobeys and/or disregards that direction or order, is guilty of a misdemeanor.”
Notice the word “lawful.” A police officer can’t order someone to do something unless the force of the law is behind him. An officer can’t order you to wash his car. He can’t order you to stop preaching. He can’t order you to take off your clothes. We have rights in the United States of America.
But there are circumstances where police can issue orders to citizens. If an officer has “probable cause” (“reasonable cause to believe a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for more than 92 days or a felony has been committed and reasonable cause to believe the person committed it”), he can detain a person, arrest a person, etc.
The question, then, is whether police had probable cause when they approached Negeen, surrounded her on three sides (by six people), ordered her to stop filming, ordered her not to walk away, grabbed her, seized her camera, dragged her out of the tent, and later threw her in a jail cell.
This issue came before Dearborn Judge Mark W. Somers, who decided before our trial that the officer indeed had probable cause against Negeen. He reasoned that, since there had been a complaint by Roger Williams, police had reason to believe that Negeen had committed a crime.
There’s just one problem here. Negeen wasn’t accused of committing a crime. Williams simply complained that Negeen was “filming within hearing distance” when Paul, Nabeel, and I supposedly surrounded him and harassed him (click here to see what actually happened). Is it a crime to film someone in public? Not at all. Thus, while three of us were accused of committing a crime, Negeen was not.
Interestingly, during the trial, our lawyer Robert Muise asked Corporal Brian Kapanowski (the officer who manhandled Negeen and charged her with two crimes for assuming that she had Constitutional rights) if the complaint of Roger Williams provided any basis for thinking that Negeen had committed a crime. Corporal Kapanowski responded in the negative, acknowledging that there is no law against filming someone in public.
What does this mean? It means that police had no right to detain Negeen, grab her, seize her property, drag her out of the tent, or take her to jail. If police didn’t have probable cause, Negeen was under no obligation to stop recording and was free to leave.
Why, then, wasn’t the charge immediately thrown out as soon as Corporal Kapanowski admitted that he didn’t have probable cause against Negeen? It’s simple. Judge Mark Somers had already ruled, prior to trial, that police did have probable cause against Negeen. This meant that, according to Judge Somers, Negeen was obligated to obey Kapanowski’s orders, even though she wasn’t (since, as officer Kapanowski acknowledged, there was no basis for thinking that she had committed a crime).
With such an absurd ruling in place, the jury found Negeen guilty. Judge Somers had ruled that Corporal Kapanowski had the right to issue orders to Negeen, and Negeen, in a frightened state, surrounded by six individuals (Corporal Kapanowski, Officer Smith, Arab Chamber of Commerce member Amal Alslami, festival volunteer Roger Williams, and two members of festival sponsor Access), didn’t immediately comply with the officer’s orders. (Note: Negeen didn’t want to turn off the camera because she knew that we had been assaulted numerous times last year by festival security. She wanted to continue filming for her own safety.)
Why was Negeen convicted of failing to obey the order of a police officer? She was convicted, not because she willfully disobeyed the lawful order of a police officer, but because a sloppy judge, by magical fiat, declared the officer’s unlawful order to be lawful.
If you’re wondering why a judge would do this, knowing that a little girl’s future hangs in the balance, the judge’s motivations became clear to us when he was sentencing Negeen. He spent several minutes praising police officers, and he told Negeen that, unless a police officer is hurting her, she should always obey his orders. (It seems, then, that if a police officer orders Negeen to wash his car, she must comply, so long as she is in Dearborn, subject to the whims of the Honorable Mark W. Somers).
Unlike Judge Somers, I have absolutely no respect for some of the police officers in Dearborn (among them, Police Chief Ronald Haddad, Sergeant Jeffrey Mrowka, and Corporal Brian Kapanowski). They have no respect for the rights of United States citizens, no respect for the Constitution, and absolutely no integrity. To refresh your mind as to what constitutes fine police work in Dearborn, you might want to again watch the video footage of Negeen’s arrest:
***NOTE*** Since I am making comments critical of a United States Judge, I want to make it perfectly clear that my comments and thoughts here are my own, based on my observations at our trial and the legal motions I have read. I have not consulted anyone else in writing this blog post. Any concerns about my comments should therefore be directed towards me.