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Maryland police officer’s assault conviction underlines urgency to liberalize public’s right to record police in public

Northern Virginia criminal defense lawyer Jon Katz fully defends criminal defendants and stands up to police and government abuse of power

Jan 11, 2016 Maryland police officer’s assault conviction underlines urgency to liberalize public’s right to record police in public

Prince George’s County, Maryland, ex-cop Jenchesky Santiago’s assault conviction underlines the urgency to liberalize the public’s right to record police in public.

Prince George’s County — where I began my criminal defense career as a public defender lawyer in 1991 — has a decades-long history of more than isolated incidents of severe police misconduct; I do not know the current trend of such misconduct. Praised be the person who videotaped the horrendous behavior (this video link is apparently from the county police department, captioning the video as portraying egregious police action) of then-cop Jenchesky Santiago for sticking his gun in the face of a man who was simply in a car near his home, doing nothing to justify any police manhandling, gun-aiming, nor temporary detention nor arrest, even though Santiago claimed Cunningham’s car was illegally parked.

Praised be William Cunningham for complaining about Jenchesky’s mistreatment of him. For every William Cunningham who steps forward about police misconduct, many more people likely remain silent, whether not knowing how to complain, not wanting to harm their criminal cases (Santiago charged Cunningham with disorderly conduct, which charge was ultimately dismissed), or not wanting otherwise to risk trouble for themselves.

On January 8, Circuit Court Judge Dwight Jackson, a former Prince George’s County prosecutor, sentenced Santiago to a five-year mandatory minimum prison sentence for using a firearm in a crime of violence. As with all Maryland non-life-sentence inmates, Santiago will serve less time than that — possibly shaving up to one-third of the time off of his five-year sentence — through diminution credits for such factors as good behavior.

Santiago certainly risked matters post-conviction and pre-sentencing, by telling his mother in a jail call that Santiago should be apologized to (starting minute 0:40). All jail and prison inmates and their non-lawyer visitors and phone call recipients must expect all such communications to be recorded and reviewed.

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