Massachusetts State Police v. Jean

NOTE: The information and commentary contained in this database entry are based on court filings and other informational sources that may contain unproven allegations made by the parties. The truthfulness and accuracy of such information is likely to be in dispute. Information contained in this entry is current as of the last event mentioned in the "Description" section below; additional proceedings might have taken place in this matter since this event.

Summary

Threat Type: 

Correspondence

Date: 

02/14/2006

Status: 

Concluded

Location: 

Massachusetts

Verdict or Settlement Amount: 

N/A
Mary Jean is the operator of Conte2006.com, which describes itself as being "designed for the sole purpose of stopping the re-election of [Worchester, MA] District Attorney John J. Conte." Jean posted a video to the site that showed state police engaging in... read full description
Parties

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Mary T. Jean

Type of Party: 

Government

Type of Party: 

Individual

Location of Party: 

  • Massachusetts

Location of Party: 

  • Massachusetts

Legal Counsel: 

John Reinstein, Daniel Shea
Description

Mary Jean is the operator of Conte2006.com, which describes itself as being "designed for the sole purpose of stopping the re-election of [Worchester, MA] District Attorney John J. Conte." Jean posted a video to the site that showed state police engaging in a warrantless and possibly unconstitutional search of Paul Pechonis' home. The police depicted in the video allegedly were from a unit that reported to Conte and acted under his supervision. The video was recorded by Pechonis' child-security system (or "nanny cam"), and Pechonis himself gave the video to Jean.

On Feb. 14, 2006, the Massuchetts state police sent a cease-and-desist letter demanding that Jean remove the video within 24 hours or face criminal action. The letter cited a Massachusetts law regarding unauthorized recording and wiretapping as the basis for the takedown request (the police later clarified by stating that only the audio portion of the recording was at issue). Rather than removing the video, Jean filed a lawsuit in federal court requesting an injunction to prevent the Massachusetts police from pursuing legal action. The complaint named the state police, Massachusetts State Police superintendent Thomas G. Robbins, and Massachusetts attorney general Thomas Reilly as defendants.

Jean's complaint sought both an immediate temporary restraining order and a permant injunction that would prevent the police from taking action against her related to the video. The court granted the restraining order on the day the complaint was filed.

The district court ultimately granted the injunction as well. The court assumed for the sake of argument that Jean had reason to know that the recording might have been illegal when she posted it. Finding a public interest in Jean's publication of the information contained in the video, the court decided that the police's duty to restrain illegal recording could not counterbalance Jean's free speech rights. Key to this decision was the fact that Jean did not engage in recording herself, and thus punishing her would not serve the same deterrence goals as would punishing the recorder.

On appeal, the First Circuit upheld the injunction, echoing the lower court's comments regarding the balancing of free speech versus the police's law-enforcing goals.

Details

Content Type: 

  • Audio
  • Video

Publication Medium: 

Website

Subject Area: 

  • Censorship
  • Free Speech
  • Criminal
Court Information & Documents

Jurisdiction: 

  • Massachusetts

Source of Law: 

  • Massachusetts

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, Central Division; United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

Court Type: 

Federal

Case Number: 

4:06CV40031 (District); No. 06-1775 (Appeals)

Relevant Documents: 

CMLP Information (Private)

CMLP Notes: 

The Conte2006.com site is a good place to check for updates, in case the suit is appealed further. {MCS}

 

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