On April 23, 2012 in the Denver Municipal Court, the Honorable Raymond Satter presiding, a jury of six of Devin’s peers found him not guilty of a park curfew violation, finally vindicating Devin’s actions from seven months earlier.
Devin had been conducting CopWatch activities downtown in September with video camera in hand. After he saw hundreds of people on bikes–the Denver Cruisers–in Civic Center Park, numerous cops descended on the area, riding their motorcycles dangerously through the crowd gathered in the amphitheater. Devin courageously ventured into the park to record police activities.
His videotape captured police tolerating widespread drinking in the park as well as DUIs on bikes. Devin was present in the park for two minutes before he was approached by police. Instantly upon seeing Devin with his camera, “CopWatch” hat and “CopWatch” shirt, Sergeant Jeff Hausner demanded Devin’s ID for the citation and informed him his camera would be confiscated. While literally hundreds of people milled around in the park without being cited for anything, Sgt Hausner chose Devin to be cited for the park curfew violation. Others had received warnings to leave, but not Devin.
Judge Satter declined to dismiss the case based on selective enforcement and chilling of a First Amendment journalistic right, despite seeing Devin’s recovered videotape. Nevertheless, at trial Judge Satter wisely refused to consider the violation a strict liability crime—despite the City Attorney’s half-baked argument to the contrary—and instead gave the jury a “knowingly” mens rea instruction. At voir dire, the jury panel expressed that a park curfew violation was a “silly” crime. The evidence demonstrated that no signs declared the park’s curfew at the park’s entrance, no officers warned Devin to leave, and that Devin did not “knowingly” violate the law.
Devin testified eloquently about CopWatch’s mission and withstood cross-examination. After watching Devin’s video, which rounded out the context of the events that evening, the jury deliberated for merely ten minutes before rendering their verdict. The jury rejected the City Attorney’s argument and Sgt Hausner’s testimony, which included inconsistencies as compared to his testimony at an earlier hearing.
Devin was represented by Aaron Goldhamer of the firm Jones & Keller. Following trial, Mr. Goldhamer called the verdict “a clear message that the People of Denver will not tolerate the criminalization of seemingly innocent conduct.” Mr. Goldhamer further opined that Judge Satter’s jury instruction was consistent with United States Supreme Court precedent in Morissette v. U.S. and Staples v. U.S., and that the jury clearly appreciated the police accountability services that CopWatch provides. “My thanks to Joel Cantrick and the National Lawyer’s Guild for their assistance on this case, but most of all to Devin for having the courage to hold law enforcement accountable for their actions and standing up for himself when he was victimized,” Goldhamer said.
Thank you all for all the support and the good people of Denver, especially the wonderful jury!