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Baton Rouge prosecutors are hoping to put a college professor in jail for sharing bodycam footage, which had already been made public, of local police strip-searching a Black teen in broad daylight.
Thomas Frampton, an associate professor of law at the University of Virginia, posted video to YouTube of 23-year-old Clarence Green and his 16-year-old brother to draw attention to their case. The footage shows Baton Rouge cops pulling down both boys’ underwear in the middle of the street and exposing their genitals. At one point, one of the cops, Sgt. Ken Camallo, also enters the Green family’s home, with his gun drawn, without a search warrant.
As the family’s attorney, Frampton told local station WAFB that the cops committed “at least a half-dozen criminal offenses themselves.” He filed a federal lawsuit against the city on behalf of the family.
Now, the Parish Attorney's Office for East Baton Rouge has petitioned the court to hold Frampton in contempt, or disobeying the court, and a judge has called for the professor to appear for a hearing. Prosecutors are pointing to a Louisiana law that prohibits sharing information relevant to a case in the juvenile delinquency court—but the 16-year-old was never charged with a crime.
“The notion that they are in any shape or form concerned about the privacy interest of a 16-year-old is not only laughable, it’s also insulting. It’s unquestionably an effort to try and deter victims of police misconduct from speaking up and that’s reprehensible,” Frampton told VICE News. “It reflects their efforts to continue supporting impunity for officers who engage in wrongdoing.”
“The point here is to harass and to tax people for speaking up and for speaking out,“ he continued.
The body-camera footage of the strip search and home entry, which occurred on January 1, 2020, had also already been made public and shared last month. Frampton received his notice from prosecutors the same day the police department held a press conference regarding the video, according to Reason, which first obtained the footage. Other news outlets, including VICE News, also covered the video.
"By seeking to jail a law professor who lawfully shared video of police misconduct, your actions directly implicate the First Amendment,” legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana Nora Ahmed wrote in a letter to the parish attorney. “Your office moved for contempt less than 24 hours after CBS Evening News broadcast a story about the BRPD officers’ actions."
During a routine traffic stop, police begin questioning the Green brothers after they allegedly smelled marijuana. According to body camera footage, the police then take the boys out of their car and strip-search them. One officer first pulls down Green’s pants and underwear, exposing his genitals in public. He then does the same to Green’s 16-year-old brother.
During the incident, police can be heard on the body camera footage saying, “If you don’t shut the fuck up, I’m going to come in and fuck you up.” At one point, the boys tell the officers they can’t strip search them in public, and one cop responds, “I can.”
The family’s case against the cops was ultimately dismissed after the family won a $35,000 settlement from the city of Baton Rouge last month. Green, however, was jailed after the incident because officers found a gun in his possession while he was on probation for Oxycodone possession. The 23-year-old was released five months later with his charges dropped. A U.S. district judge Brian A. Jackson who oversaw the case slammed the cops for their actions.
"The state agents in this case demonstrated a serious and wanton disregard for Defendant’s constitutional rights, Jackson said in his release order, obtained by Reason. “First by initiating a traffic stop on the thinnest of pretext, and then by haphazardly invading Defendant’s home (weapons drawn) to conduct an unjustified, warrantless search."
At no point after the incident in January 2020 did Sgt. Camallo or any of the other cops go on administrative leave for the incident, and they continued to receive pay.
After widespread criticism of the officer's conduct last month, the police department said they will be conducting an investigation into officers entering Green’s home without warrant, and no follow up will be given to the strip search conduct.