Sunday, April 8, 2018

The Gileno--Brown Act Saga: Cameras and Federal Courtrooms

Gary Gileno, aka Grindall61 was convicted of a petty misdemeanor, failing to follow the lawful order of a federal security official.

The incident occurred at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals building in Pasadena, CA.

Here's the first report from the Los Angeles Times, which focused on his outrageous detainment, followed by the entrance of the public to the Commission meeting in one of the chambers.

Sometimes people yell at the monthly turnout of the Los Angeles County Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission, but on Thursday the fireworks started before some attendees could get inside.

A man attempting to bring a camera to the public forum, held at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Pasadena, was handcuffed and ultimately ejected after he began filming a dispute with security guards over whether he could bring recording devices into the federal courthouse.

This part was the crux of the entire conflict. I didn't get the details of what happened until after the commission meeting ended. On a related note, I had brought in signs for the commission meeting, but the federal officers told me that I could not bring them in. They told me this AFTER they had screened me through. I was really unhappy with how incompetent they were.

It was really sad. These federal officials were untrained, unprepared for their work at the court house.

After being detained about an hour, Gary Gileno, a freelance journalist and a member of We The People Rising, a group opposed to illegal immigration, was issued a $280 citation for failing to comply with court security officers' directions.

That's it. $280 is a lot of money, that's for sure. After the guilty verdict from the judge, Gileno ended up paying $85.

Gileno, who said he has filmed a public gathering inside that courthouse before, said he's well-versed about his rights at open meetings and that what happened to him was "outrageous."

Yes, it was outrageous, because the confusion associated with the meeting and for everyone attending was really appalling. The Civil Commission showed real incompetence moving their August 2017 meeting to a federal building. This kind of behavior is beyond unacceptable. What were they thinking? Don't these county officials know anything about the Ralph M. Brown Act?

It got worse in the meeting. I yelled at the chairman, Robert C. Bonner, who stormed out of the meeting. The Vice-Chair then asked for me to be removed, but the federal officials backed off and did not follow his order.

At least there was some justice that day.

U.S. Marshals had been telling those entering the building that no electronics were allowed, even if people were headed to the public forum. The agents eventually let most people bring their phones and cameras inside, although they did not allow people to hold up signs in the meeting.

Notice that report. People were allowed to bring their cameras into the building. What is going on here? There is a set of laws for one group of people, and a set of laws for another. This was total incompetence from the federal security officers, and the people had to pay for it.

Mike MacBean, acting supervisor for the U.S. Marshals Service for California's central district, said officers who detained Gileno were simply enforcing rules barring recording devices of any type inside federal courthouses.

He was too rough. He should have de-escalated the situation by having Gileno step outside to discuss the situation.

Gary "Grindall61" Gileno (LA Times)

But the ordeal highlighted an awkward situation for the oversight commission, which is bound by the state open meetings law that says anyone at official public meetings has a right take pictures, video or audio of the proceedings, unless doing so creates a persistent disturbance.

Exactly! The LA Times reporter knows more about the Brown Act than the Chairman!

Commissioners have frequently said they want to foster a welcoming atmosphere for anyone to come and speak about their experiences with the Sheriff's Department.

"I felt a little humiliated having to take off my shoes and stuff," said Commissioner Heather Miller, a rabbi, noting the airport-like security measures at the federal courthouse. "You talk about law enforcement triggering things for people."

This liberal Rabbi is a part of the problem on the Commission. She is too liberal, too interested in "in"justice rather than doing what is right. I had to confront her about her misuses of Scripture to justify open borders and unfettered migration into the United States.

Robert C. Bonner, a former federal judge who serves as chair of the civilian oversight panel, said he recommended that the federal courthouse be used for the meeting. The commission has been trying out different locations in search of a more permanent home.

Shame on him! I wonder if he received any kind of reprimand for that poor decision.

"The cameras are not allowed in a federal courthouse, that's all I can tell you. These aren't my rules," he said.

Bonner said he was not familiar with certain provisions of California's open meetings law, known as the Ralph M. Brown Act, and that he relies on county counsel for advice on the legalities.

How could a federal judge not know about the Ralph M. Brown Act? He must have lived in California long enough to know how to operate an open meeting. Perhaps part of the problem lies in that as a federal official for so many years, he has no experience or regard for the demands and concerns of individual working people. This is what happens to bureaucrats much of the time. They care about themselves, their prestige, their power, and accountability is non-existent.

"Why is it that people would have to have their own separate audio recording when we have an audio recording that picks up everything that's said?" Bonner asked.

That statement right there exposes the arrogant, elitist mentality of the people in power and those who sit on commissions. Seriously? Right, sure, there is no need for open meeting laws, and the rest of us little people should simply trust our "betters" to govern in our best interests.

Right .... sure.

The commission posts audio files of its meetings online, but there is typically a lag time of a few weeks.

Not only that, but no one would have known about the unjust, obstreperous attempt by the Commission Vice-Chair to attempt to have me removed! It was pretty scary. Now we know fully why the transparency issue bothers so many of these county officials.

Brian Williams, the commission's executive director who approved the location, said he wasn't aware that cameras were not allowed inside federal courthouses. He said he would keep that in mind when deciding on future sites for the monthly meeting, which has recently been held at the Metropolitan Water District building next to Union Station.

He will be sure next time. How could so many people have gotten so much wrong?

"I want to make sure the public has unfettered access," Williams said.

Peter Bibring, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, said the oversight commission has an obligation to follow state law and should not hold meetings in places where people aren't allowed to bring cameras or other recording devices.

DUH! For once, the ACLU is on the side of the citizenry. For once.

How did the trial turn out, exactly, for our friend Gary?

I was instructed to retain my cool no matter what happened. I had a vague feeling that Gary was not going to get out of the district court with a "Not Guilty" from the judge. The fact is that he turned on the camera to record his interaction with the security guard after he was informed not to record.

On the other hand, recording these meetings is the right of every person, and the misuse of power from the LA County Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission needed to be documented.

What's more, full transparency should be expected for all federal buildings!

Here's the second report following the guilty verdict:

It began as a $280 citation for using a video camera in a courthouse.

But to Gary Gileno, at stake was much more than the couple hundred bucks he was told to pay.

An attorney for the anti-illegal immigration activist and prolific YouTuber told a judge Friday that the four-hour trial over the fine was really about preventing government abuse of power, protecting the rights of journalists and ensuring that citizens can hold public officials accountable.

Yes! Putting a brake, a clamp on the powers of the state is always a worthy effort.

"If he is convicted … it'll chill speech, it'll chill journalism, it'll say the federal government has a superpower to do whatever it wants," attorney William Becker said. "This is unprecedented. This is what we expect to see in a police state."

A police state wants secrecy. Indeed, how true that is!

The bigger policy must be confronted. We need to stop allowing this massive secrecy in federal buildings, and the gaps in the electronic device laws must be amended.

A federal prosecutor dismissed the rhetoric, arguing the Class C misdemeanor charge was simply about Gileno's refusal to follow a security officer's orders.

Notice that the name of the prosecutor does not figure into the case. How strange is that.

The unusual legal battle came after Gileno, 32, tried to bring a video camera into a meeting of the Los Angeles County Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission last year. California law specifically allows the public to use recording devices at such meetings, but the commission's meeting in August was held at a federal appellate court building where filming is prohibited.

The commission, a civilian panel set up to monitor the Sheriff's Department and listen to public concerns about the agency, had been gathering in different locations around the county since it began meeting in January 2017. This was the first time commissioners had met at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals building in Pasadena.

And it will be last time.

As Gileno entered the courthouse, deputy U.S. marshals told him he had to leave his camera in his car. Gileno insisted he had a right to record the meeting under the First Amendment and the state's open meetings law, known as the Brown Act, and began filming the officers.

They responded by handcuffing and detaining him for about an hour.

Yes. How sane is that? 

After Gileno was cited, Robert C. Bonner, a former federal judge who chairs the commission, told The Times he wasn't aware of certain provisions of the state's open meetings law and relied on the county's lawyers for legal advice.

The county lawyer didn't know about the Ralph M. Brown Act? Ridiculous! They need to dismiss that attorney and hire another one.

Rather than pay the fine, Gileno opted to take his case to trial, facing a penalty of up to a $10,000 fine and 30 days in jail if found guilty.

He was bold and gutsy to take the risk, and I submit that it paid off.

Gileno, who began his YouTube career after showing up at his local council meeting in West Covina, said he has made a living off of his channel in recent years. His copious videos — 3,237 and counting — focus primarily on denouncing illegal immigration and promoting supporters of President Trump. His criminal case may have been a boon for his channel — a recent screed on his own prosecution was viewed more than 10,000 times.

"Recent screed" -- talk about liberal bias!

By the way, here's the video:

On Friday, two court security officers who clashed with Gileno took the stand and testified that there were signs clearly posted saying photography wasn't allowed in the courthouse. They said Gileno grew belligerent and disruptive, turning on his camera after being warned several times that it was not allowed.

That's simply not true. "Belligerent" would better describe the two federal security officers. MacBean clearly instigated with the question "Do you want to get arrested?!"

Testifying in his own defense, Gileno said he was a freelance citizen journalist who has attended and filmed local government meetings and legislative town halls for about five years.

"I believe in the United States of America, you should be able to keep tabs on the government," he said.

Guess what? The Framers believed the same thing! They recognized the dangers of absolute power, and therefore wanted to limit it!

In more than 250 other public meetings he attended, he said, he never had an issue with bringing in his video camera. He said the security officer all of a sudden "exploded" at him, so he turned on his camera "to document what I felt was a violation of my rights at the time."

Yes, the officer exploded. It was crazy.

Assistant U.S. Atty. Benedetto Lee Balding said Gileno's disruption of security officers working at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals was no small matter. It was Gileno who escalated the encounter by refusing to go along with the officers' orders, he said.

Are we supposed to just do whatever the police officers tell us to do?

"He decided unilaterally he didn't have to follow the rules," the prosecutor said.

That is not true. He was confused and had every right to question what was going on. I would have done the same thing, although I would have avoided recording events at the very moment.

Becker, who primarily represents conservatives and Christians in free-speech cases, worked for free on Gileno's case. He argued that the federal courthouse essentially became a "limited public forum" when it hosted the commission meeting, which Gileno should have been allowed to film under the state law.

Thanks, Bill!

Magistrate Judge Jean P. Rosenbluth said she could understand why Gileno was angry and frustrated given his past experience filming the meetings, but she said that didn't excuse his failure to follow orders. Security at the appellate courthouse, where justices could be filmed without their knowledge, was a serious concern, the judge said.

I would disagree. I think that the judge should have offered an infraction or a hanging plea or some kind, or some kind of civil penalty at the most. But a misdemeanor conviction? Give me a break!

"Even if these seem arbitrary or don't make any sense to Mr. Gileno or anybody else, clearly they serve this very important purpose," Rosenbluth said, finding Gileno guilty.

Wrong! We as the citizens of this country have a RIGHT to know.

Acknowledging that a "misunderstanding" had led to the kerfuffle, the prosecutor recommended a sentence of no fine, which would leave Gileno having to pay just $35 in court fees. Rosenbluth said she felt the need for "some consequences" and ordered Gileno to pay a $50 fine, bringing his total penalty to $85 with the fees.

Gileno said he was "outraged" and "astounded." After the verdict, he turned to nine supporters in the audience, including a man in a red "Make California Great Again" hat, and exclaimed, "I was never read my rights!"

You don't have to be read your rights unless the police interrogate you. They did not interrogate him, so they did not need to read him his Mirandas.

His attorney said they would seriously consider an appeal and possibly a civil lawsuit against the government.

NEWSFLASH: They are appealing this case. There is so much more at stake here. So much more.

"What the judge just said is if a city council can move to a federal building, they can keep the meeting secret," Gileno said. "That's grossly illegal."


Final Reflection

The truth is that the federal officers were overzealous, and there were manifold mistakes on both sides. This misunderstandings do not in any wise justify arresting him summarily. Shame on the officers for being so incompetent and ignorant. 

Shame on Chairman Bonner for hosting the meeting in a federal building in the first place. There is so much at stake here.

1. What rights do citizens have to question or contest police actions?
2. What immediate recourse should be available when government entities are preempting transparency?
3. What purpose does it serve for any government entity, state or federal, to impose limited access on First Amendment rights for citizens?

More good news: Gary's story was front page news on Drudge! More people are going to learn about this case!

This case is far from over!

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