A Maryland man spent 26 hours in jail, had his family’s home raided by police using a questionable warrant who confiscated his computers and now faces felony charges for “wiretapping” after uploading a video to YouTube of an undercover police officer pulling a gun on him during a routine traffic stop. Sounds awful, right? It is, but the motorcyclist is partially to blame, at least for the police officer’s initial gun-flaunting reaction.
Here’s what happened: Anthony Graber was out for a leisurely ride, a
leisurely ride that saw him wheelie through traffic on I-95 at over
100mph before reaching speeds that appear to be in excess of 140mph.
Unbeknownst to Graber, who was wearing a helmet and gloves but no other
protective gear, he passed an unmarked police car while doing all this.
When he pulled off at the next exit, the State Trooper (in plain clothes
and with no badge on display) pulled in front of his bike, jumped out
and pulled a gun, failing to identify himself as a police officer while
brandishing the weapon and shouting “Get off the bike!” Officer J. Uhler
did identify himself properly, but only after acting in an incredibly
aggressive manner and grabbing Graber’s CBR1000RR. Uhler holstered his
weapon once a marked car arrived on the scene and made no mention of the
gun waving in his official report.
As a commenter on Photography Is Not A Crime put it: “This could have so
easily ended in the biker being shot or sentenced to death, because he
tried to escape/fight what appeared, rightfully so, to be a gun wielding
maniac with road rage. Not to justify the biker’s driving, but an
unmarked police car and a plain clothes officer looks no different than a
thug with a gun!”
So far, so fairly routine. A motorcyclist acts like a jackass, prompting
a proportional, if illegal, response from a thug cop. Happens all the
time, too many bikers insist on riding dangerously in populated areas,
creating a very negative perception of all motorcyclists in the minds of
both the public and in police officers. Too many police officers feel
that they’re above the law, abusing their position by bullying or even
assaulting members of the public. Give a cop an excuse (any will work, but riding a motorcycle seems to be particularly effective) and he’s going to beat you up/pull a gun on you/arrest you on trumped up charges. That’s just a fact of life.
But things started to get weird.
Graber, who pled guilty to the 80 in a 65 ticket he was issued at the
stop, felt aggrieved by Uhler’s thuggery and decided to upload a video
of the traffic stop to YouTube so the whole world could share in the
experience. Uhler saw the video and understandably didn’t want the
recording of his behavior to remain public. Uhler obtained a warrant,
alleging that Graber violated a law banning wiretapping as well as
charges for reckless driving and negligent driving. Six cops raided
Graber’s home, detaining his family for 90 minutes and confiscating
Graber’s computer equipment.
According to the police, Graber was charged with wiretapping because he
recorded Uhler without his consent. Maryland state law apparently bans
secretly making audible recordings of people in a public place if they
have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Graber refutes the claim that
he violated the law, claiming that his helmet-mounted GoPro camera was
clearly visible throughout the incident and an on-duty police officer
does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy. If convicted, Graber
could face up to five years in jail.
See the problem here? Police have a nearly unlimited ability to break
the law and fuck with us. People who pull wheelies and excessively speed
through traffic make them want to fuck with us. It’s guys like Graber
that we have to blame for police aggressively targeting motorcyclists
instead of, say, hippies or foreigners. While we wish we lived in a world
where police weren’t little more than gun-toting thugs, we don’t. Ride
responsibly, at least when other people are around, and less of us will get the Uhler treatment. Ok?