VIDEO: Maui Time Publisher Arrested Filming Police
By Maui Now Staff
Editor’s note: This video of the conversation with police and subsequent arrest was provided by Thomas Russo. Added 11/21/2012, 4:40 p.m.
[flashvideo file=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GOgaNB6ssNs&feature=youtu.be /]
Maui police arrested the publisher of Maui Time today for three alleged offenses including obstruction of government operations, resisting arrest, and harassment.
The incident stems from an attempt by Russo to allegedly video tape a traffic stop that took place this morning (November 20, 2012) along the Haleakala Highway.
Thomas A. Russo, 39, was released after posting $3,000 bail.
According to police reports, the officers involved in the traffic stop were part of the Operation Recon traffic detail that was conducting enforcement of over-sized vehicles and vehicles with windows having illegal tints. The operation started island-wide on Nov. 16, and was in response to complaint letters to the editor of a different publication, the Maui News, police said.
Maui police were conducting a traffic stop at around 9:20 a.m. along the Haleakala Highway near the Hana Highway intersection when the encounter with Russo was reported. According to police reports, two police vehicles followed a vehicle that was being pulled over for illegal tints.
Shortly thereafter, police say another vehicle pulled up behind the police vehicles and the lone operator exited and approached the traffic stop. The operator, later identified by police as Thomas A. Russo, publisher of Maui Time, started to video tape the traffic stop with his cell phone, according to police reports.
Police say Russo allegedly proceeded past the police vehicles and continued walking toward the vehicle that had been stopped while still videotaping the incident with a cell phone.
Police say that as a matter of routine police traffic stop procedures designed for officer safety, the officers advised Russo to stay behind the police vehicles while they conducted a controlled traffic stop investigation. According to police reports, Russo allegedly refused to comply and continued approaching and videotaping the officers and the two occupants.
Police said the two occupants of the vehicle then informed the officers that they had been alarmed by Russo videotaping them.
An account of the incident was published on Russo’s Maui Feed website, in which he said, “I wanted a report from the scene. I was arrested for filming and all other charges from the MPD are ridiculous. The police chose to arrest me in a direct attempt to stop the documenting of their activities.”
In Russo’s account, he was backing away from the officers while filming. The officers followed Russo and arrested him after he identified himself by name and as the publisher of Maui Time.
Police allege that Russo compromised the safety of the officers involved, after failing to comply with what they said were “numerous requests” from the officers to move back behind the police vehicles.
When the officers attempted to place Russo under arrest, he allegedly “began to resist by pulling his arms away, however, officers were able to safely gain custody,” according to police reports.
Russo was subsequently placed under arrest. A court date is set for 10:30 a.m. on Dec. 27, 2012.
This is Russo’s second incident over the filming of police. On April 12, 2011, Russo claims he was assaulted by an MPD officer while attempting to film the crew of reality television show “Dog the Bounty Hunter” (since cancelled), and later, the same officer attending the scene.