|Flickr/ photographer padawan *(xava du)|
On June 30th Orlando Copwatch’s, John Kurtz, was found not guilty on the felony charge of Battery on a Law Enforcement Officer, stemming from an incident early morning New Year’s Day when Kurtz was filming a violent arrest on Church St. in Downtown Orlando. This verdict was primarily due to video evidence captured from an IRIS street camera at the corner of Church Street and Orange Avenue, which effectively disproves all 3 versions of Officer Adam Gruler’s story as to where, when, and how the supposed battery took place.
Kurtz was however found guilty of the misdemeanor Resisting Arresting Without Violence from his arrest during this same event. Kurtz was sentenced by Judge Alan Apte to 30 days in jail for this misdemeanor offense. Kurtz is currently in jail and has no hopes or expectations of getting out before his full sentence has been served.
“The reason I seek appeal is primarily because of the unreasonable probation conditions of Judge Alan Apte, which for the next 12 months doesn’t allow me within 100 feet of a Law Enforcement Officer, effectively ending my participation in Orlando Copwatch.” Kurtz said.
“Anyone who believes police need to be held accountable, who believes the public should be protected from the corruption within the Orlando Police Department, anyone who has enjoyed the Orlando Copwatch website, youtube channel or facebook, anyone who just wants to protect our first amendment rights or rights to film, needs to step up and help raise funds for this appeal.”
Kurtz estimates that his appeal will cost between $10,000 and $15,000. Kurtz said he is prepared to pick up some of the cost, but cannot do it without significant donations from the community. Kurtz said that if he is able to raise $5,000 by July 25th he will commit to appealing this case. Kurtz is also seeking assistance of the ACLU and petitioning attorneys to help pro-bono. Inquiries and donations can be made at www.orlandocopwatch.com.
Kurtz said there are multiple reasons why his appeal should be granted and his conviction overturned.
He cites that the prosecution during closing arguments, and the judge during sentencing, said that when Kurtz approached the scene with his camera and told the officers “calm down, I am filming you” that act by itself was interfering, obstructing, or opposing a police officer, and thus took the form of resisting arrest without violence. Kurtz insists that this form of free speech is absolutely protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, as well as Article I, Section 4 of the Florida Constitution. This is specifically upheld by the US Supreme Court in case Houston vs. Hill, 1987, and Florida Supreme Court Case, Florida vs. Saunders, 1976, as well as other case law. These rulings have never been overturned. In addition, Kurtz’s arresting officer, Adam Gruler testified that Kurtz did not resist while being arrested.
Kurtz also says Jugde Apte’s sentencing alone is grounds for appeal. “Dozens if not hundreds of people go through the Orange County Courthouse everyday with charges of and similar to resisting arrest without violence, these people get nothing more than ‘a slap on the wrist’” Kurtz said.
“In the multiple plea deals I was offered, jail time was never mentioned, in fact my last plea offer didn’t even include probabtion and this is when I was charged with a felony, as well as resisting arrest without violence. Now that I have been found not guilty of a felony and all I have is this little misdemeanor, which is the first charge of my life, Judge Apte stuck me in jail for 30 days and a year probation. Judge Apte made it clear that he was annoyed that I wasted the courts time by excercising my right to trial instead of accepting the plea offers and he wants to punish me for it. It is that simple”.
Kurtz also adds that it is absurd to be found not guilty of the reason he was supposedly arrested in the first place, but sent to jail for allegedly resisting that arrest.
RELATED ACTIVIST POST ARTICLE:
Activist Convicted of Resisting Arrest Without Violence