Federal Court Hearing Monday In Preakness Video Recording Case

MEDIA ADVISORY FOR: Monday, February 13, 2012

CONTACT: Meredith Curtis, ACLU of Maryland, 410-889-8555;

BALTIMORE, MD - A hearing before the Federal District Court will take place on Monday, February 13 in a case regarding the harassment and detention of Christopher Sharp, the seizure of his cell phone, and destruction of his personal videos by Baltimore City Police, after he recorded a police incident on the phone. The case was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland (ACLU) on behalf of Christopher Sharp to defend his First Amendment rights to take videos in public and to film the police.  The Baltimore City Police and the Police Commissioner are seeking to dismiss the case against them or a judgment in their favor. They claim a new, undisclosed police policy called "General Order J-16" means this case should not go forward against them.

WHAT:  U.S. District Court hearing in Sharp v. Baltimore Police Department.

WHO: Client Christopher Sharp, Pro bono attorney Mary Borja from the law firm Wiley Rein, and Deborah Jeon from the ACLU of Maryland. Also appearing will be Timothy MyGatt and Rashida Ogletree from the United States Department of Justice.

WHEN: Monday, Feb. 13, 2012 at 10 AM.

WHERE: United States District Court, Courtroom 7A, 101 W. Lombard Street, Baltimore, MD, 21201.

BACKGROUND: In May 2010, while attending the 135th running of the Preakness Stakes, Christopher Sharp used his cell phone camera to video and audio record the arrest and beating by officers of an acquaintance at Pimlico Race Course. Officers of the Baltimore Police Department stopped him, seized his cell phone, and detained him while one officer left the area with his phone. After the officer returned the phone, Sharp discovered that the officers had deleted video of the arrest and beating and all other of his videos, including many of his young son. 

The ACLU contends that the BPD routinely violates the First Amendment by threatening citizens who try to photograph or record police encounters. The BPD violated Sharps' Constitutional right to gather, receive, and record information, which are cornerstones of the First Amendment.