Texas Rep who Authored Anti-CopBlock Bill just got a Primary Challenger
DALLAS TX – The now infamous Texas state Rep, Jason Villalba (R-Dallas), who authored a bill that would have criminalized filming the police as a private citizen or independent journalist, now officially has a challenger in the March primary election.
In early 2015, Villalba addressed a group of upset constituents during a debate and literally begged for a primary challenger.
“I Plead with you, I plead with you publicly. Bring me an opponent. Bring me an opponent next time. I ask you to do that.”
Villalba even took to Facebook and taunted a couple journalists who were critical of him in their articles by telling them to “bring it.” The end of the rant read, “I am a common-sense Reagan conservative and I will destroy you. Bring it. PLEASE.”
However, when Dallas attorney Dan Morenoff took Villalba up on his offer and filed to run for his seat, Villalba mounted a frivolous legal challenge to block Morenoff from the ballot which was ultimately unsuccessful.
Villalba became the target of international outrage from virtually the entire political spectrum (except for the Dallas Police association) after he filed House Bill 2918. As it turns out the Dallas Police association pretty much wrote the bill and Villabla simply filed it.
The bill sought to add additional language under the current “INTERFERENCE WITH PUBLIC DUTIES” statute (Sec. 38.15) to limit the activity of filming the police (within 25 feet) to “news media” only, which he defines as…
(A) a radio or television station that holds a license issued by the Federal Communications Commission;
(B) a newspaper that is qualified under Section 2051.044, Government Code, to publish legal notices or is a free newspaper of general circulation and that is published at least once a week and available and of interest to the general public in connection with the dissemination of news or public affairs; or
(C) a magazine that appears at a regular interval, that contains stories, articles, and essays by various writers, and that is available and of interest to the general public in connection with the dissemination of news or public affairs.
It’s no coincidence that internet based news sites like CopBlock.org were conveniently missing from his list of “approved media,” but more importantly, private citizens were completely excluded from being news media under the proposed definition, a right which was affirmed by the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, Glik v. Cunniffe. The Landmark case ruled that…
a private citizen has the right to record video and audio of public officials in a public place
The decision further states…
… “we have previously recognized that the videotaping of public officials is an exercise of First Amendment liberties” and held that Glik had a constitutional right to videotape a public official in a public place. The court noted that this right was not limited to, but a right of all citizens, subject to reasonable limitations of time, place and manner. It was clear in the current case that none of those limitations applied.
Second, the court looked at whether the right to videotape was clearly established at the time of the arrest. The court had “no trouble concluding that ‘the state of the law at the time of the alleged violation gave the defendant[s] fair warning that [their] particular conduct was unconstitutional.’” (brackets in original) The court noted that some constitution violations are “self-evident” and the right to film public officials in a public place was clearly established a decade prior to Glik’s arrest.
Not only did Villabla want to restrict cop blockers, but he also wanted exclude armed individuals from filming the police. His bill allowed for anyone to be armed within a 100 foot radius of a police officer, however, the second you whip out your smart phone and start recording an officer (potentially abusing their power) while in possession of a handgun, you would instantly be considered a criminal. The proposed verbiage is as follows…
(1) filming, recording, photographing, or documenting the officer within 25 feet of the officer; or
(2) filming, recording, photographing, or documenting the officer within 100 feet of the officer while carrying a handgun under the authority of Subchapter H, Chapter 411, Government Code.
(g) It is a defense to prosecution for an offense under Subsection (a)(1) based on conduct described by Subsection (f)(2) that the interruption, disruption, impediment, or interference was caused by a person who, at the time of the offense, was:
(1) a news media employee acting in the course and scope of the person’s employment; or
(2) employed by or working with an organization or entity engaged in law enforcement activities.
Thanks in large part to the smart phone revolution, the majority of individuals are armed with some sort of recording device that can capture video images of police activity, for better or for worse. This technology, coupled with social media allows individuals to share information that traditional media couldn’t possibly capture live, and share with the entire world with just a few taps on their phone. CopBlock.org, among other sites have in large part empowered average citizens to film police officers who are simply acting outside their authority, or in some cases, committing crimes against humanity.
After roughly a week of being an international target on social media, Villalba walked back the bill and admitted the wording was not optimal. He let the bill die in committee.
It is unknown if Morenoff is a better choice for the people than Villalba, but one thing is certain, no one politician could be more in bed with a police union than Jason Villalba.
See the “Challenge Accepted” video below from Dan Morenoff