Man jailed in photo incident awarded $8,000
An amateur photographer who was taken into custody last year after shooting pictures of two Seattle police officers making an arrest on...
Seattle Times staff reporter
An amateur photographer who was taken into custody last year after shooting pictures of two Seattle police officers making an arrest on a public street received an $8,000 settlement this week, the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington announced Thursday.
The photographer, Bogdan Mohora, later was released and was never charged with a crime. The two officers who arrested him were disciplined, according to police.
During a news conference Thursday, Mohora, 26, said he was walking on Pike Street near Second Avenue on Nov. 2 when he saw two Seattle police officers arresting a man.
Mohora said he snapped a few shots of the arrest from a distance of more than 10 feet and was walking away when he was approached by a female friend of the man being arrested.
Mohora said the woman told him she believed the arrest of her friend was wrong, and that he was being arrested on a warrant that had been quashed. She asked Mohora about obtaining copies of the photos, he said.
Two officers, James Pitts and David Toner, then ordered Mohora to hand over his camera, according to ACLU staff attorney Aaron Caplan, who handled the case. Mohora said that when he asked what he had done wrong, the officers handcuffed him and took his camera, wallet and satchel. They then drove him to a holding cell at the Seattle Police Department's West Precinct, Mohora said.
When he was released about an hour later, he said, he was told that he could be charged with disturbing the peace, provoking a riot or endangering a police officer.
Mohora was not charged and, in violation of department policy, police did not write up an incident report on the arrest, according to ACLU Legal Director Sarah Dunne.
"Being arrested for simply being a witness to police activity was frightening and humiliating," Mohora wrote in a claim he later filed against the city. "It bothers me to think that police can abuse their authority by arresting innocent witnesses and then not even make standard police reports to document what happened."
After the ACLU intervened on Mohora's behalf, the city's claim department agreed to pay Mohora $8,000.
The ACLU said the police Office of Public Accountability investigated the officers' actions and sustained the complaint, finding the officers acted inappropriately. Seattle Police Department spokeswoman Deanna Nollette said both officers were disciplined with written reprimands for a lack of professionalism and poor exercise of discretion.
City Attorney Tom Carr said he couldn't comment on the settlement because the claim was handled by the city's risk-management department.
Caplan said the public has a right to observe and document police activity that occurs in a public location.
Christine Clarridge: 206-464-8983 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
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