MANHATTAN (CN) – Authorities can’t arrest public citizens for taking photographs and recording videos outside federal courthouses, the government acknowledged Monday in a settlement with the New York Civil Liberties Union.
The NYCLU sued the federal government in April on behalf of Antonio Musumeci, a New Jersey man who was arrested after filming a protest outside of the Manhattan federal courthouse.
Officers confiscated Musumeci’s video, detained him for 20 minutes and cited him for violating a federal regulation, according to the NYCLU.
The charge against Musumeci was later dismissed, the NYCLU claimed, and federal officers threatened to arrest Musumeci on two subsequent occasions when he was filming protests at the courthouse.
Because Musumeci was filming on public property paid for taxpayers, the NYCLU said the arrest violated Musumeci’s First Amendment rights.
“While we understand the need for heightened security near federal buildings, any rule that results in the arrest of people for exercising their First Amendment rights is clearly unconstitutional,” NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said in a statement.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office acknowledged in the settlement that there are no federal laws or regulations prohibiting photography outside federal courthouses.
The government also agreed to release the memory card seized from Musumeci’s camera, pay him $4,850 and instruct federal officers that it is not illegal to take photographs or video recordings outside federal courthouses.
U.S. District Judge Richard Holwell signed the settlement order.