It turns out that Jimmy Justice is not the only Video Vigilante around. In fact, he is not even the original.
That honor goes to Brian Bates of Oklahoma who even has the domain name.
But unlike Jimmy Justice, whom I wrote about Monday, Bates doesn’t go around hounding cops who are illegally parked. He focuses on the johns and prostitutes in his neighborhood, pouncing on them with his video camera as they are about to engage in public sex by yelling, “You’re Busted Buddy!”. Then he post the videos on his Youtube account.
But that doesn’t mean he won’t stand up for his Constitutional rights when a cop tries to intimidate him from filming officers as you can see in the above news report.
That incident occurred last year after a pimp started threatening him for filming him. Oklahoma City police officers arrived on the scene and arrested the pimp.
But when Bates continued filming the officer, the officer told him that if he didn’t stop filming him, then might find himself dialing 911 for en emergency, only to have nobody respond.
The officer’s threats were caught on tape and he was disciplined by his superiors.
It turned out, this wasn’t the first time he had an issue with the Oklahoma City Police Department since he became the Video Vigilante in 1996.
“My relationship with police used to be very good,” he said in an email interview with Photography is Not a Crime this week.
“So much so that they didn’t hesitate to violate a person’s civil rights in front of my camera. I’ve captured everything from racist comments to macing already handcuffed people etc. At the time I figured the bad guys deserved it, but as the years went by and I matured, I realized how corrupt they were.”
But in 2002, he taped what became known as the “Donald Pete arrest” where two white police officers beat the crap out of a black man they caught with a prostitute.
“The story went worldwide and caused a blackeye to the police and DA’s office,” he said.
Not surprisingly, police tried their best to take the video from him before it was aired. This is how he explained it in the email:
They arrested me at the scene and placed me in a police car when I refused to hand over the tape – I offered to make a copy and give them the copy, which I have always been allowed to do since 1996. They said I was being arrested as a “material witness” and I would be held until they got a court order to seize my videotape.
They cuffed my hands in front of me. This allowed me to get to my cell phone. I already had the local news stations on speed dial and I called them all – telling them I had a police beating on tape and they were trying to destroy the evidence.
Within minute the scene was full of media. The Lt. at the scene call the chief of police. The chief asked to speak to me. He agreed the Lt. would give me a written note stated I will get my original and unaltered video back by noon the next day – to which I agreed.
The police insisted on unhandcuffing me while still in the car so the media would not get images of me (the witness) in handcuffs.
I got the tape back as promised.
The funny though was the DA did not know I had the original tape. During the investigation he had the tape altered to take out a threat against Donald Pete’s life (made by the first officer on the scene). When I realized this I went public with the unaltered tape which clearly had the threat against Pete’s life. Pete said that threat was what made him hesitant to be handcuffed.
Exposing that is what got the DA after me.
District Attorney Wes Lane was so fumed by this exposure, that he made it his mission to go after Bates. In 2005, Lane had him charged with nine felony counts regarding pimping, accusing him of paying the prostitutes to do their hooking on camera for him. Bates ended up owing more than $70,000 in legal fees.
“I started a company at JailBlotter.com – where I go to the Oklahoma City Police Department every morning and collect the jail blotter. I then scan it and email it to paying subscribers (mostly local attornies wanting to solicit business),” he said.
Bates also started a campaign to get Lane voted out of his office, releasing an audio tape where Lane is bragging to a roomful of police officers how he refuses to investigate cases of police brutality.
Lane was voted out of office in 2006 and all nine felony charges against Bates were reduced to a single misdemeanor charge of “obstructing police”, which has nothing to do with pimping.
Meanwhile, his business thrived.
“It was a hit and paid all my attorney fees. So much so, two years after the charges were dropped I still run the company.”
I am a multimedia journalist who has been fighting a lengthy legal battle after having photographed Miami police against their wishes in Feb. 2007. Please help the fight by donating to my Legal Defense Fund in the top left sidebar. And feel free to join my Facebook blog network to keep updated on the latest articles.