Saturday, September 27, 2014

Jailed Drone Photographer Needs Legal Help On A Serious First Amendment Fight.

Daniel Saulmon/Tom Zebra
Los Angeles, CADaniel Saulmon, 42 better known as Tom Zebra is being held in a jail cell here since his 4:00 PM arrest on September 23rd.  Saulmon was late for his misdemeanor citation received weeks earlier for flying his camera drone.  When Saulmon appeared later that morning they kept him waiting for hours and then was ordered held on a punitive $30K bail. 

Saulmon spent five days in jail until his supporters were able to post his bail.  
The crime Saulmon is accused of is flying his little plastic remote control Phantom 2 camera drone on Los Angeles park property. 

The little known L.A. ordinance Saulmon was arrested on is not new.  It banned flying of remote controlled aircraft.  However this put on the books long before the little multi-rotor Phantom gizmos with cameras ever existed.  

At the time they enacted this remote controlled aircraft law, the city council had no way to know the much gentler camera drones would be invented later.  Without specific intent to ban the multi-rotor  Phantoms the law should be considered void for vagueness.

The ordinance itself was enacted to prevent people from being injured by the much faster and less stable fixed wing remote aircraft being used at the time.  There are absolutely no reports of any deaths or remarkable injuries from the little drones like Saulmon used. 
The simple but unanswered question on these popular camera drones is, aren't they protected by the First Amendment?   

The real issue here is that Saulmon is a firebrand in the eyes of cops.  He’s challenged police authority to stop him from shooting video of them on public streets.  Saulmon has posted countless videos on YouTube of hostile confrontations with cops in every South Bay police jurisdiction.
Salmon patrols the streets on his bicycle and whips out one of several video cameras he carries and begins to record the action.  Often the cops take exception to Saulmon's activities and try to force him into presenting identification and to explain why he’s shooting video.  Saulmon usually refuses to cooperate with the police and it nearly always makes for interesting video.Saulmon also makes a modest living in part by selling newsworthy video to local news organizations.  
Our nation's cops are just beginning to learn that Saulmon’s activities are Constitutionally protected by the First Amendment.   The U.S. Supreme Court has spoken on this issue and cops have no reasonable expectation of privacy when engaged in their duties.
Over the last several years cops have conspired against, harassed and falsely arrested thousands of people taking their pictures.  This won’t end until the lawsuits begin to seriously drain public coffers.  
Saulmon recently added that Phantom 2 camera drone to his arsenal and that has ignited even more resentment from his police detractors.  The cops have consulted/conspired  with city and county prosecutors looking for any and all ways to sideline Saulmon’s activities.
Logic would dictate that the camera drones are just another form of media capturing devices like pencils, pens, paintbrushes, typewriters or any other camera!
Is this a conspiracy to violate Saulmon’s civil rights?  Given the history I think that may be abundantly clear.
Let me say I don’t personally approve of much of Saulmon’s tactics but the Bill of Rights says otherwise.  

I know a lot of cops that welcome cameras because they are a protection against bogus brutality complaints by criminals.  Not all cops agree on pushing Saulmann around or intimidating him.  The cops prosecutors and courts have to respect our basic freedoms.  The right of people to record and scrutinize the conduct of the police must be protected at all cost.
Saulmon deserves to be fully  supported by the camera drone manufacturers, media, civil libertarians and certainly the ACLU.
I hope someone reading this will arrange for a top flight First Amendment media lawyer.  

The fact is the news organizations stand to lose the most if the camera drones can be banned.  Camera drones are the next generation aerial electronic news gathering devices.  They are so much safer, agile and incredibly cheaper than helicopters. 

Saulmon will be in the Long Beach Superior Court on September 30th, 2014 at 8:30 AM.  The court is located at 275 Magnolia Ave, Long Beach, CA.
Soulmon needs to serious legal help to fight this tyranny.   
Let me get a single point across here.  Our rights have never been won or preserved because of requests, begging or pleading.  Without the Tom Zebras of America constantly fighting for their rights there'd be no First Amendment.  


Anonymous said...

So why don't you set up a place where people can donate to get him free to start with.

Anonymous said...

His style of taunt-flying and filming is to provoke an arrest so he can make even more money.

"the unemployed former apartment manager said he has settled two lawsuits filed against the Hawthorne Police Department, one for $25,000, the other for $75,000. A third case is pending."


Crimefile said...

If the police agencies are being forced to pay this guy money over bogus arrests than we know who was within and outside the law!

Violating civil rights is a nasty business! We don't want cops who are sworn to protect and defend the constitution doing those kinds of things.
These cops are not serving or protecting anyone by arresting people filming them.

Anonymous said...

This guy is a thorn in some cop's side with his antics. However he's really not their concern since the law is on his side. He's no threat to the cops or anyone else until they overstep their bounds and break the law.

We need guys lie Soulmon or the cops would degenerate into thugs.

As for his flying his little toy, that begs the question who is in harms way because of it?

Crimefile said...

Good news! As of 11:30 AM the Sheriff's inmate roster no longer includes Soulmon. He was able to make bail and was released.

Anonymous said...

Hi. His last name is spelled Saulmon. Sorry, I am new to your blog, so noticed this as I scanned some of your and your posters' words.