Jury Finds Occupy Wall Street Protester Innocent After Video Contradicts Police Testimony [Updated: VIDEO]

michaelpremo.jpg
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Michael Premo was found not guilty of assaulting an officer after video evidence contradicted police testimony.
In the first jury trial stemming from an Occupy Wall Street protest, Michael Premo was found innocent of all charges yesterday after his lawyers presented video evidence directly contradicting the version of events offered by police and prosecutors.

Premo, an activist and community organizer who has in recent months been a central figure in the efforts of Occupy Sandy, was one of many hundred people who took part in a demonstration in Lower Manhattan on December 17 of 2011, when some protesters broke into a vacant lot in Duarte Square in an attempt to start a new occupation.

For a more detailed account of Premo's trial, read this update:

Read More OWS Coverage:
- New York Post Helps NYPD Slander Occupy Wall Street (Again)
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- Human Rights Body Criticizes U.S. for NYPD's Policing of Occupy Wall Street

After police broke up the action in Duarte Square, hundreds of protesters marched north,
playing a game of cat and mouse with police on foot and on scooters, who tried to slow and divide the column of marchers. At 29th Street near Seventh Avenue, police finally managed to trap a large number of marchers, kettling them from both sides of the block with bright orange plastic netting. After holding the crowd in the nets for some time, a few people managed to escape, and police rushed in to the crowd with their hands up. In the commotion, Premo fell to the ground and attempted to crawl out of the scrum. (Covering the march, I was also kettled on this block for a time, though I only witnessed Premo's arrest from a distance.)

d17orangenets.jpg
Nick Pinto
Police were kettling protesters on 29th Street using orange nets when they arrested Michael Premo.
In the police version of events, Premo charged the police like a linebacker, taking out a lieutenant and resisting arrest so forcefully that he fractured an officer's bone. That's the story prosecutors told in Premo's trial, and it's the general story his arresting officer testified to under oath as well.

But Premo, facing felony charges of assaulting an officer, maintained his innocence. His lawyers, Meghan Maurus and Rebecca Heinegg, set out to find video evidence to contradict it. Prosecutors told them that police TARU units, who filmed virtually every moment of Occupy street protests, didn't have any footage of the entire incident. But Maurus knew from video evidence she had received while representing another defendant arrested that day that there was at least one TARU officer with relevant footage. Reviewing video shot by a citizen-journalist livestreamer during Premo's arrest, she learned that a Democracy Now cameraman was right in the middle of the fray, and when she tracked him down, he showed her a video that so perfectly suited her needs it brought a tear to her eye.

For one thing, the video prominently shows a TARU cop named Bosco, holding up his camera, which is on, and pointing at the action around the kettle. When Premo's lawyers subpoenaed Bosco, they were told he was on a secret mission at "an undisclosed location," and couldn't respond to the subpoena. Judge Robert Mandelbaum didn't accept that, and Bosco ultimately had to testify [Correction: Bosco didn't take the stand; he had to appear at the District Attorney's office for a meeting with Maurus and prosecutors. Judge Mandelbaum accepted that Bosco would likely say on the stand what he said in the meeting, and didn't require him to testify.] Bosco claimed, straining credibility, that though the camera is clearly on and he can be seen in the video pointing it as though to frame a shot, he didn't actually shoot any video that evening.

Even more importantly, the Democracy Now video also flipped the police version of events on its head. Far from showing Premo tackling a police officer, it shows cops tackling him as he attempted to get back on his feet.

After watching the video, the jury deliberated for several hours before returning a verdict of not guilty on all counts.

This isn't the first time someone arrested during an Occupy Wall Street march has gone free after video evidence undercut prosecutors storyline and sworn police testimony. Photography student Alexander Arbuckle was acquitted in May after a livestreamer's footage showed police weren't telling the truth about his arrest.

Speaking after yesterday's verdict, Maurus said the case highlighted the significance of having the press, livestreamers and professional video journalists, present during demonstrations.

"That was really important," Maurus said. "Without that evidence, this would have been a very different case. There are many, many cases that don't have so much video evidence to challenge the police version of events, but in this case, we did."

For Premo, being found innocent affirms something even more fundamental:

"The biggest thing for me coming out of this," he told the Voice, "is not being discouraged by the attempts of New York City to quell dissent and prevent us from expressing our constitutional rights."

On Twitter and Facebook, Premo celebrated his not-guilty verdict by quoting the lawyer Elizabeth Fink: "There is no justice in the American justice system, but you can sometimes find it in a jury."

Update: Here's the video shot by Jon Gerberg, then freelancing for Democracy Now, that was central to Premo's acquittal:

[npinto@villagevoice.com] [@macfathom]

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83 comments
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dj_reno54
dj_reno54

A police officer who has an objectively reasonable belief that his actions are lawful is entitled to qualified immunity.

1. The police were just conducting "business as usual".


2. Police follow other cops actions; usually escalating a situation because they have hurt feelings because they feel disrespected.


3 Individuals have morals, institutions have ethics. Police are paid a salary to have neither.


4. "Internal affairs" is just that police, policing the police. What can go wrong?


Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Indeed.

malcolmkyle16
malcolmkyle16 topcommenter

* It only takes one juror to prevent a guilty verdict.

* You are not lawfully required to disclose your voting intention before taking your seat on a jury.

* You are also not required to give a reason to the other jurors on your position when voting. Simply state that you find the accused not guilty.

* Jurors must understand that it is their opinion, their vote. If the Judge and the other jurors disapprove, too bad. There is no punishment for having a dissenting opinion.

fakefaker123
fakefaker123

so basically, the cops can lie, deceive, and railroad citizens without any reprimand whatsoever. Where is internal affairs? Aren't they supposed to police the cops?  How is anyone supposed to trust the NYPD's version of anything?  Thanks goodness all our phones/etc have video cameras embedded in them now, make sure to record any encounters you have with cops.  FYI, I heard a Mass. cop call me an asshole while explaining to another cop why I was pulled over; all I had to do was tell him I recorded that on my phone and was going to play it for the press and I didn't get a ticket for not stopping completely at a stop sign.

gabriel.j81
gabriel.j81

Those police involved, who lied in court should all go to jail.

FriedRice
FriedRice

So the Cristofascist pigs committed crimes against citizens, lied under oath, and committed Christian terrorism against the United States and not a single shitting fascist pig is going to prison.

aburstein1
aburstein1

If police were always recording what they were doing (and didn't destroy the footage) it would prevent so many of these bogus cases from ever seeing the light of day. A White House petition was started to promote mandated video recording of all on-duty police interactions.

Sign it at http://wh.gov/G11B.

EmmittBrownBTTF1
EmmittBrownBTTF1

These officers became subject to the Lucifer Effect(P Zimbardo et al). This is where individual ethics are subjugated to authority. It makes detention guards sadistic, cops brutal, and military personnel willing to follow an off duty CO through the execution of a bank robbery.
It can happen to anyone.  Care must be taken to shape culture so that does not happen.

But right now political and corporate interests see it as useful.

matterkam
matterkam

You give cops a bad bad bad name... I am learning more and more, every year with more exposure, that I cannot trust cops... What a shame, I never had it out for them, and would speak up for them in defense. Now I just can't defend their actions. It turns out they can be worse people than criminals, they are not better than us civilians.



elizabeth.conley
elizabeth.conley

I  think this incident and others speak to the general credibility of these police officers.  Anyone they've arrested must be presumed innocent, unless there's concrete evidence of guilt.  These officers' credibility is nonexistant.

adamweinberg49
adamweinberg49

So when are the police going to face charges for lying under oath?  

catfitz
catfitz

So comrades, when the cultural workers come to power through revolutionary struggle, you will now let good bourgeois newspaper Village Voice that helped people's struggle stay open? Yes?


Say, did that cop get a broken bone or not? How?

robertgsmiley
robertgsmiley

So is that enough? A finding of not guilty is wonderful for the accused but the bigger question from a judicial standpoint is did the police lie to the court under oath? Did they commit perjury? If so where are the indictments against them for such criminal activity? Why should police get a way with a crime that anyone else would be spending time in prison for?

kaborka666
kaborka666

What a surprise!  The NYP lies.  Mayor Bloomer's private army (financed by taxpayers dollars) strikes again.  Who would thunk it?  I hope the protesters sue their asses off even if the taxpayers have to pick up the bill.  Fight fire with fire or, in this case, Fascism with money.

AnotherCaliMom
AnotherCaliMom

It is the responsibility for the Justice Department after viewing case after case where it is shown that the police institutions especially in NY has a well documented pattern of knowingly committing perjury. This is a Civil Rights violation and the DOJ must prosecute.  This is yet another example of aggressive prosecution. Obviously there is collusion on the part of the entire court system with the exception of the jury. What does it say about a country where 90% of cases are pleas with unchallenged lies. 

dano869
dano869

Why not prosecute these lying police officers for perjury??? A few convictions may put a stop to this kind of BS!! Just saying

yermojoe
yermojoe

I love Democracy Now! .org

brombacher1
brombacher1

The #NYPD cannot ever be expected to anything, but hide the truth, and protect the even more violent system of Capitalism. #FTP, and Burn down the courts. No justice in the Amerikan system, but luckily the Juries have some sanity. 

hearty
hearty

The lying police officers should each be charged with perjury.  Michael Premo deserves justice for these cops abusing their power and wasting his time.


pobri19
pobri19

Man they better do something about these lying cops. Such bullshit.

nojustice
nojustice

So now, when will Premo's arresting officer be charged for perjury for lying under oath, and ideally stripped of his badge, and forced into retirement without his pension?

goatonastik
goatonastik

Please, record as many police encounters as you can, guys. We can't trust police officers on the stand any more than convicted criminals.

calebduerr
calebduerr

Obviously we need more Chris Dorners.

calebduerr
calebduerr

We need more Chris Dorners. If you are contemplating suicide, please go out with honor.

andrew.mcinally
andrew.mcinally

If the prosecutor doesn't want to see jail time themselves, start perjury proceedings against the officers who gave sworn testimony in the case. And the NYPD should terminate their employment immediately with malice, so no benefits are pension are paid out.

dilly
dilly

These officers should go to jail for perjury. But they won't, it will all get pushed under the rug as usual, and they will get off.

The entire police force disgusts me. 

cnico
cnico

And now, of course, perjury charges will be filed agains Bosco and assault charges will be leveled against the police who attacked Premo, right?

What, no charges will be filed against the police?  No wonder they act as if they are above the law.

B@stards.... to serve and protect WHOM???

justaperson
justaperson

Wait serious question though, just like everyone else - What is going to happen to those police officers?

They should lose their jobs. I hope the defendant is able to sue the #$%^ out of them. And they should go to jail.

OWSFailed
OWSFailed

Now maybe we can move onto the other million instances of provable violence, rape, arson, terrorism, death threats ETC ETC ETC that eminated from the violent and authoritarian OWS fanatics.

wowwwwww
wowwwwww

@gabriel.j81 so should the cops that mistakenly shot innocents looking for Chris Dorner

gold
gold

The system's credibility is at question.  WHy prosecute this matter if the defense has given the prosecution the real tape.  Jury nullification is the greatest empowerment against a stacked system.  Juries must demand that cops prove what they say, not just believe cops. Especially in the "he reached for his waistband" cases. Juries must be tough on cops, and treat them as strangers with a reason to tell stories. This man was very lucky to have that tape. Sorry, but if the facts are one man's word versus the cop's word, the jury should demand further proof.  The cop's word is not enough any more. Acquit. Jury nullification.  This goes for bad laws, too.  A jury can reject the law and acquit. Juries are the essential last stand of freedom. Magna Carta remains your best friend.

ErikTheClown
ErikTheClown

@robertgsmiley Cops don't get in trouble for lying.  Now if they tell the truth and it makes another cop look bad, however, they're toast.  Just ask Dorner.

parkerkathleen
parkerkathleen

@robertgsmiley I totally agree and think that if a few officers had to "do time" for perjury with the general prison population, they and the others would think long and hard the next time.....

GuyFalkes
GuyFalkes

@andrew.mcinally .... The corruption goes all the way to the top. Has been that way for decades.  They do whatever they want, and protect and serve isn't one of the choices.

drschnell2
drschnell2

@cnico they protect big brotha w/ the private citizens $$$  what a damn bs racket

kaborka666
kaborka666

@cnico - to serve and protect WHOM???  The elites and corporations, of course.  Isn't that was blatantly clear by now?

johnsparksjr
johnsparksjr

@cnico The sad thing is, the Supreme Court ruled it wasn't police's duty to protect, only enforce law.

kaborka666
kaborka666

@justaperson -  They'll get promotions and pay raises instead.  The elites/corporations are mighty grateful for the lapdogs' loyalty and will reward them with tax paying suckers money for their brutality and lies.

matterkam
matterkam

@OWSFailed No, I don't think so. Those people banned together and looked out for one another. The cops incited violence. They have been know to use defacto protestors to start violence. That's the dirtiest. Those people stood up for our rights. How about a million instances of financial terrorism. How about how cops and rich people hurting innocent people and getting away with it? The world is acutally a much different place than how you see it

kaborka666
kaborka666

@OWSFailed - OWS violent, authoritarian and fanatical.  LOL!  Yeah and war is peace, freedom is slavery and ignorance is strength.  Only in the USSA Circa 2013.  And if there is one thing OWS hasn't done is fail, you being here shitting in your blue polyester shorts being the proof.

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