Motorhome Diaries Crew Recover Deleted Video of Police Encounter

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

Last May, the crew of the Motorhome Diaries libertarian road tour were arrested in Jones County, Mississippi after a traffic stop. One of the crew, Adam Mueller, was charged with disorderly conduct, though Jones County officials then wavered about what exactly Mueller did wrong. They first said he was arrested for not putting down his video camera when ordered to do so. But it isn’t illegal to record police officers in Mississippi. They then said he was arrested for moving from the spot where police officers instructed him to stay.

Mueller recorded most of the encounter, but when his camera was returned to him after he was released from jail the video had been deleted. He has since been able to recover the video, which he walks you through in the video below. The video is choppy and fragmented, a result both of Mueller’s holding it during a traffic stop and the fact that it has since been deleted and recovered. Mueller says the recovered video shows the deputies lied about a number of aspects of the stop and subsequent arrests. You can watch and see whether or not you agree with him.

But here’s what now is indisputable: Mueller took video of the traffic stop, and that video—evidence in both the county’s case against Mueller and Pete Eyre and in their lawsuit against the county—was deleted while Mueller’s camera was in the possession of the Jones County Sheriff’s Department. I’m no lawyer, but I’m fairly sure that’s destruction of evidence. And I’m fairly sure it’s a crime. And it seems to me it’s a much more serious crime than anything Mueller or Eyre are alleged to have done.

The question is, will Jones County Sheriff Alex Hodge investigate, and will the person who deleted the video be charged?

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62 Responses to “Motorhome Diaries Crew Recover Deleted Video of Police Encounter”

  1. #1 |  David | 

    Destruction of evidence against police officers. I’m pretty sure that’s the kind of crime you get a Medal of Freedom for.

  2. #2 |  André | 

    I’m having a premonition…

    “After reviewing the evidence against our deputies, the Internal Affairs Committee has determined the officers acted within the scope of their duties and have been cleared of any wrongdoing.”

  3. #3 |  SJE | 

    Destruction of evidence has to be tied to a crime or lawsuit for which you are destroying the evidence. Hence, the problem: we need a prosecutor to go after cops (unlikely), or these guys to sue the cops (very difficult).

  4. #4 |  Cynical in CA | 

    “The question is, will Jones County Sheriff Alex Hodge investigate, and will the person who deleted the video be charged?”

    Ummmm … … no … and … uh … umm … no?

    Did I get it right? Do I win a prize?

  5. #5 |  David | 

    SJE: Unless you’re saying that the evidence has to be damning, rather than exculpatory, there’s already an associated crime.

  6. #6 |  BladeDoc | 

    That would be a rhetorical question, right?

  7. #7 |  Roho | 

    My money’s on the guys being charged with ‘evidence tampering’ for recovering the deleted data.

  8. #8 |  Old Fart | 

    BTW, Adam used that recovered video at his jury trial on the disorderly conduct charge this past week. The result was a hung jury. 4 voted for not guilty, 2 voted guilty. It is now up to the DA on whether to retry the case. From what I’ve heard, Pete Erye (another member of MHD) filmed the entire trial and will be posting the video in the near future.

  9. #9 |  Andrew S. | 

    I’m no lawyer, but I’m fairly sure that’s destruction of evidence. And I’m fairly sure it’s a crime. And it seems to me it’s a much more serious crime than anything Mueller or Eyre are alleged to have done.

    Ah, but such laws only apply to you or me. When the police do it, it’s not a crime. You should know that by now.

  10. #10 |  Yizmo Gizmo | 

    No, they’re going to be indicted retroactively on the ROGUE statute
    “Recovery of Government-deleted Unflattering Evidence, ” a law
    drafted just recently by True Believer Joe Lieberman.

  11. #11 |  Joe | 

    Can’t they shoot you in Mississippi for “shooting” some digital recordings?

  12. #12 |  Gideon Darrow | 

    Mississippi Evidence Tampering Statute:

    Ҥ 97-9-125. Tampering with physical evidence

    (1) A person commits the crime of tampering with physical evidence if, believing that an official proceeding is pending or may be instituted, and acting without legal right or authority, he:

    (a) Intentionally destroys, mutilates, conceals, removes or alters physical evidence with intent to impair its use, verity or availability in the pending or prospective official proceeding;

    (b) Knowingly makes, presents or offers any false physical evidence with intent that it be introduced in the pending or prospective official proceeding; or

    (c) Intentionally prevents the production of physical evidence by an act of force, intimidation or deception against any person.

    (2) Tampering with physical evidence is a Class 2 felony.”

    Of course, proving that a cop acted “without legal right or authority” can be tricky (to say the least), as anyone who reads this blog can attest.

  13. #13 |  Buddy Hinton | 

    “[The policeman] said he also had never experienced someone using a video camera during a traffic stop before, and wondered whether the camera was a weapon or some other distractionary device.

  14. #14 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    How can you prove which pig deleted it? You can’t. They walk.

  15. #15 |  SJE | 

    David #5, see Gideon #12. The law distinguishes between the mere destruction of something (like throwing out photos of an ex), and destruction of evidence associated with a crime, or likely to be subject to an investigation (throwing out photos of you burying your ex’s body). I think that what the cops did is a crime. However, it must be tied to some underlying crime or investigation. So, if the local prosecutor never investigates the illegal stop, you have a problem. The other problem is that any legal action will require you to go to court there, where the cops’ lawyers will portray the MHD crew as liberal yankee trouble makers.

  16. #16 |  EH | 

    He should sue the police for copyright infringement for affecting the quality of his video.

  17. #17 |  Phelps | 

    Given that not only were they charged in the investigation, but that it has already gone to trial once, it’s clearly spoliation.

    Where in the hell is the FBI on these civil rights violations? This is obviously institutional.

  18. #18 |  K9kevlar | 

    Those two guys are lucky they didn’t end up like Ned Beatty along the Cahulawssee River.

  19. #19 |  Aresen | 

    Roho | December 3rd, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    My money’s on the [ETA: Motorhome] guys being charged with ‘evidence tampering’ for recovering the deleted data.

    THIS.

  20. #20 |  K9kevlar | 

    Jones County? Where they still hang niggers. Damn, some of these Free Talk Live guys a really fucking idiots.

  21. #21 |  Badge-Wearing Knuckle-Dragger | 

    @ #13: Hey! I dunno wut all theese fancy lek-tronic gizmos are! It cuda bin some lazer-beam wepun of sumthin!

    You peepel need to lern to jus shut yer traps and do wut yer told and we wont hafta whup up on ya and toss ya in the hoos-gow ya dam Comies!

  22. #22 |  ktc2 | 

    Of course they will be charged for both evidence tampering and destruction of evidence. By “they” I mean the Motorhome Diaries guys, of course. The police will swear that they deleted the image themselves in an attempt to make the officers look bad, and the prosecutor and judge will absolutely charge and convict them.

  23. #23 |  DeadGuy | 

    All I can think of is that Bugs Bunny cartoon with the buzzard. The one that sings “My momma done told me, to bring her some dinner.”

    I can see the Sheriff saying, “Duh, nope, nope, nope, nope, nope, nope” in answer to your questions.

  24. #24 |  OBTC | 

    Guess who has a FaceBook page a la Beth Dixon:
    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Re-elect-Sheriff-Alex-Hodge-for-Jones-County/108850935839590

    Check this out, it’s from JCSD Press Release dated Oct 2010 but it’s about MHD:
    http://www.jonesso.com/view_releases.php?id=357

  25. #25 |  Cynical in CA | 

    It’s official — Obama has now pardoned more humans than turkeys:

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101203/ap_on_go_pr_wh/us_obama_pardons

  26. #26 |  Random Guy on the Internet | 

    “#20 | K9kevlar | December 3rd, 2010 at 4:53 pm
    Jones County? Where they still hang n*****s. Damn, some of these Free Talk Live guys a really fucking idiots.”

    K9 is that kind of language really necessary to make your point? How about a little civility around here?

  27. #27 |  K9kevlar | 

    #24 Random you stick to your vocabulary and do not worrry yourself to dictate mine. So fuck off for now and have a nice weekend.

  28. #28 |  Radley Balko | 

    K9 is that kind of language really necessary to make your point?

    No, it isn’t. It’s also ignorant of the facts in this case. Two of the cops who pulled the MHD crew over were black.

  29. #29 |  Mario | 

    Boyd @ 14

    I’m not sure about how you prove who deleted the video. But, I think if the video was ever entered by the state as evidence, then they would have had to establish some sort of chain of custody. If that’s the case, it may be possible to pin it on someone.

  30. #30 |  Sebastian H | 

    “I think that what the cops did is a crime. However, it must be tied to some underlying crime or investigation.”

    They destroyed exculpatory evidence of a crime that they were willing to take a guy to trial over. That is DEFINITELY a crime.

  31. #31 |  K9kevlar | 

    Ignorant of the facts? Radley please. The history of Jones County might just come into play here. One of the lynching capitals of the US. You and Random Guy might want to change the SouthPark flag, but I still maintain that words have meaning. What makes you think that having black LEOs precludes anything?

  32. #32 |  Anton Sherwood | 

    I’d be interested in a coherent explanation of how abuse of White transients by Black cops is part of a tradition of violence against Blacks by the White establishment.

    But with the greatest regret, R.B., I think I have to stop reading The Agitator; I keep getting irregular heartbeats ….

  33. #33 |  Z | 

    Crimes are things little people do.

  34. #34 |  Buddy Hinton | 

    One thing I haven’t seen addressed is whether the police kept arguing that he moved off the spot (video notwithstanding), or whether the police changed the basis of the disorderly conduct charge after the video was recovered.

  35. #35 |  PW | 

    I’d be interested in a coherent explanation of how abuse of White transients by Black cops is part of a tradition of violence against Blacks by the White establishment.

    Sadly some people see the entire world through the lens of “whitey” abusing black people, whether the case merits it or not. It isn’t surprising though. We have a media culture and education system that inculcates such a belief…or at least enough of it that emotionally susceptible persons – particularly those with a preexisting “victimhood” mentality – begin to think and behave that way.

  36. #36 |  Greg | 

    I’m always fascinated by the denial of black on white racism, almost as much as the denial of white on black racism.

    Not everyone, not every time, and not everywhere. But regardless of frequency, racism is hardwired into the human lizard brain – culture and society are the tools of mitigating overt racism. The covert stuff is part of our survival instinct, and is always going to be there.

    Were I black and living in Mississippi, I’d probably be just a tad suspicious of any white cop – seems MS leads the nation in jail “suicides”. Also apparently in podunk PDs that make Joe Arpaio’s Phoenix look like Switzerland.

    Was there a racial component to this police encounter? Who knows.

    Regardless, what did happen was ridiculous paramilitary training, believing themselves to be above the law, and Stanford Prison Experiment power-tripping played out as it does across the country.

  37. #37 |  K9kevlar | 

    “You know what I am? I’m your worst fucking nightmare, man. I’m a (insert word that does not offend Radley and Random Guy here) with a badge, that means I got permission to kick your fucking ass whenever I feel like it.”

  38. #38 |  Marty | 

    Pete and Adam have impressed me throughout their travels and when I met them- they keep hammering away in a polite, but firm way that seems to be getting results. We need to be turning our kids on to these guys…

  39. #39 |  K9kevlar | 

    Marty would you send your kids to southern Mississippi to find freedom?

  40. #40 |  Buddy Hinton | 

    I knocked them slightly here at The Adge about a week ago, but I am really impressed that the one guy stayed on the designated spot and put his camera down when instructed to do that.

  41. #41 |  Arhtur | 

    Was this even a legal traffic stop in the first place? ‘Something came back wrong with the tag’ or whatever excuse was given sounds shady. Anyone know the details of what was alleged to be wrong with the registration? I mean there is so much bullshit behavior on the part of LE in this case it IS hard to concentrate on one thing, but I believe there is far too much of this make something up, pull ‘em over, shake something out of it type enforcement. This strategy is ubiquitous, but worse still is how most Americans are convinced that it IS legal for police to act in this manner.

    If you aren’t doing anything wrong you’ve got nothing to worry about, unless you care about the Bill of Rights, stand up for and protect yourself, are of a certain ethnic origin, are dressed the wrong way, have a smart mouth………….I try not to generalize my hate and disgust to all LEO’s, but it’s just so damn hard when nearly all of them will tell you to your face that they can stop any person for any reason at any time. When more citizens start to question that assumption we might see some positive changes. Okay, ramble off.

  42. #42 |  Bob | 

    #41 Arhtur

    Was this even a legal traffic stop in the first place? ‘Something came back wrong with the tag’ or whatever excuse was given sounds shady. Anyone know the details of what was alleged to be wrong with the registration? ….

    There was nothing wrong with his registration. The RV had paper temporary tags (Which is very common) The cop claimed he couldn’t read the tag as they drove by.

    Basically, it was a stop with intent to search a vehicle with out of state tags. In the vernacular: “A fishing expedition”

    There was nothing “legal”, at least in the intent of the law, about it.

  43. #43 |  Justthisguy | 

    @Greg at #36, I concur. Everyone has a bit of xenophobia, a prudent person has a bit of prejudice (It’s called inductive reaoning, or Science.), a lot of people are racists, and some people are right mean racists, i.e., bigots.

    I attend an almost all-white church sponsored by the Anglican Mission in America. It is run out of the Anglican Province of Rwanda. Its mission is to bring the Gospel to the white heathens in America. Our Archbishop is a Tutsi, who had to leave his country to avoid being chopped during the Tutsi vs. Hutu horribleness.

    I admit to being a bit of a racist, preferring to live among fellow white folks, but am happy to obey the hierarchy serving under our Archbishop, who is a Negro. “In Christ there is no Jew nor Greek” as the saying goes.

  44. #44 |  Chris Mallory | 

    #39 K9

    They would find more freedom in southern Mississippi than they would in Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey or New York.

    But hey, those hell holes don’t fit into your anti Southern bigotry.

  45. #45 |  K9kevlar | 

    Chris that is just a matter of government employees per person or square mile.

  46. #46 |  ShelbyC | 

    SJE #15, It’s pretty clearly tied to the disorderly conduct charge, right? The dude’s being procecuted for disorderly conduct, and the cops destroyed evidence that shows whether or not the defendant committed disorderly conduct.

  47. #47 |  PW | 

    #44 – Reminds me of this.

    Interviewer: How are race relations in the South these days?
    Walker Percy: Almost as bad as the North.

  48. #48 |  SJE | 

    #46: Shelby. As I said, the destruction of evidence has to be associated with the person doing the crime, but the disorderly conduct charge was against the MHD, and destruction of evidence was by the cops. So, you need some criminal charge against the COPS first to make the destruction of evidence charge. For example, you could charge the cops with perjury. The problem is that any charges against cops requires a prosecutor willing to do so. Regular readers will know that this is very very rare.

  49. #49 |  SJE | 

    OK: follow up. The MHD guys are due in court soon. Now, if the cops try to perjure themselves, they are opening themselves up to trouble. What the bet that they will just drop the case, instead? Again, it will require a courageous prosecutor to act against the cops. Without that, the cops escape any sort of punishment for an illegal stop, illegal arrest, falsified documents, and harrassing innocent people. Even if the cops get some administrative punishment, and get fired, they will just end up in another county, doing the same thing. The present system is so stacked.

  50. #50 |  Sebastian H | 

    “So, you need some criminal charge against the COPS first to make the destruction of evidence charge. ”

    No, you shouldn’t need that. Destroying exculpatory evidence (evidence tending to show innocence) is absolutely a crime. Think of it this way: if the cops had a video which confirmed an alibi in a murder case, tried to destroy it, and then proceeded against the person with the alibi, that would clearly be a crime.

  51. #51 |  SJE | 

    #50: the destruction of exculpatory evidence would not come into play if the case is dismissed.

  52. #52 |  Arthur | 

    #42

    Damn, it’s too bad it was a paper/temporary registration as that is essentially automatic PC for a stop. I agree it was a standard fishing expedition but I wish it could be proven in court.

  53. #53 |  K9kevlar | 

    Arthur, Arthur, why would you want that? What good can come of it? A bright line rule by the gang of 9, that gives carte blanche to seize vehicles with paper tags or out of state plates, would be the end result.

  54. #54 |  SJE | 

    The weak link here is the prosecutor. Faced with clear evidence of police misconduct, he declines to file charges.

  55. #55 |  K9kevlar | 

    Given what we all know about the environment we live in, does anyone really think driving to Jones County, Mississippi in a decorated motorhome with paper tags would NOT invite trouble. You people here act like the MHD guys are victims of circumstance as opposed to just plain fucking stupidity. They made a decision to taunt roadside bandits and they got fucked with. What do you folks think roadside bandits do all day? They steal other people’s shit in a punctilious fashion. They do not concern themselves with the victim’s version of the procedures.

  56. #56 |  SJE | 

    What evidence do you have that the MHD sought a confrontation with police? In any situation where someone is improperly arrested or, for that matter, beaten, raped, murdered, etc, we can always find some after the fact reasoning that shows how the actions of the victim led to the injury. This reasoning is logically flawed and, most importantly, shifts the onus to the victim. If a cop wants to act like a f*ing tyrant, he is the one at fault.

  57. #57 |  K9kevlar | 

    SJE what evidence do you require? They took a large vehicle, painted the most visible color known to man, and drove it around with non standard license plates. Do you think this will not garner unwanted attention from police? Add the black and you get the basic color scheme of a hornet. Humans are predisposed to perceive that as danger. Then add the FACT that anything not benignly normal will result in a confrontation with the police and you do not need to be a logicion to predict the score of that game.

  58. #58 |  K9kevlar | 

    SJE what tools do the police have? If you give a carpenter lumber, nails, and a hammer he will build you a house. Give a plumber pipe, solder, and a torch he will give you running water. Give a man the tools of tryanny and what do you suppose he will give you? Just because you want to think you are not living in a police state does not negate the fact that you are.

  59. #59 |  BoogaFrito | 

    The video is of questionable quality because it’s being recorded off a computer monitor (a copy of a copy).

    It would have looked better if they had just uploaded the original video (with the commentary soundtrack).

    Also, K9kevlar’s mother had it coming because of the way she was dressed.

  60. #60 |  BoogaFrito | 

    Aha! Here’s a link to the raw footage of the Motorhome Diaries arrests:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QUk37Kq96KQ

  61. #61 |  K9kevlar | 

    BoogaFrito you forgot to mention that my mom was holding a paper sign that said fuck me as she lay there on the side of the road.

  62. #62 |  Bergman | 

    Replying to Boyd, #14: In many places, simply being in a recognizable group with someone who commits a crime in your presence prior to the crime is sufficient for a conviction for that crime. It’s called being an accessory. The same case can (and should) be made for police destroying exculpatory evidence, since destruction of evidence is a felony.

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