Wiretap Charges Tossed in Videotaping of Trooper

Associated Press | September 27, 2010
By Ben Nuckols

BALTIMORE - A judge threw out criminal charges Monday against a Maryland man who videotaped his traffic stop by a plainclothes state trooper and posted the video on YouTube.

Anthony J. Graber III had been indicted under Maryland's wiretap law, which requires the consent of both parties to record a private conversation. His video shows the trooper pulling his gun and telling Graber to get off his motorcycle before he identifies himself as a police officer.

Harford County Circuit Judge Emory A. Plitt Jr. ruled that the wiretap law did not apply to a traffic stop because the conversation was not private.

"In this rapid information technology era in which we live, it is hard to imagine that either an offender or an officer would have any reasonable expectation of privacy with regard to what is said between them in a traffic stop on a public highway," Plitt wrote.

Harford County State's Attorney Joseph I. Cassilly, who obtained the indictment against Graber, did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

State police spokesman Greg Shipley said the agency respects the judge's ruling and that troopers will be made aware of it. Troopers who suspect a violation of the wiretap law have been told to present the case to prosecutors before pursuing charges, he added.

Graber, 25, still faces traffic charges including reckless driving and negligent driving stemming from the March arrest. He had been recording himself riding on his motorcycle with a camera mounted on his helmet before he was pulled over on an Interstate 95 exit ramp.

After he posted the video, state police obtained a search warrant and seized his computer and other items. Graber was indicted in April.

"This ruling upholds the fundamental right to hold police accountable to the public and constitutional principles they serve," said attorney David Rocah of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, who represented Graber along with a team of private attorneys who took the case pro bono.