JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A violent image as police strike a woman and arrest her just moments after they arrested her husband. What crosses the line when it comes to recording law enforcement doing their job? Just as important, what crosses the line for police in reacting to someone officers don't want nearby?
In Kelli Wilson's mind, all she did was record her husband's arrest with her phone.
Police with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office report the woman interfered with their investigation, and was only arrested after being warned more than once.
"I was beaten, and then falsely arrested, my phone was stolen, my car was taken. It was a traumatic experience. It was definitely an experience you never think you would be going through," said Wilson.
The incident happened July 15, 2015, outside a Westside convenience store. Wilson found out her husband had been stopped by police, so she got a ride to the scene and tried to pickup their vehicle. She says she turned on her video recorder on her phone as she talked with police.
Wilson says she identified herself to police and asked if she could recover the vehicle. She says she acted politely until the confrontation that can
be seen on the convenience store surveillance video. Wilson says an officer demanded her phone, so she asked "why?"
"He asked for it, he demanded it again, and I gave him the same, 'Why do you want my phone? What do you need my phone for?' He told me he would punch me in my face," said Wilson. "I eventually got punched and beaten and the sergeant that was on the scene joined in the beating."
Wilson has two local lawyers representing her.
"She was lucky for that video, because without it, I don't think a judge or jury
would believe her against three police officers," said one of Wilson's attorney's, Dexter Van Davis.
The lawyers say the video proves her version of events and dismisses the accusation listed in the police report - that Wilson was interfering with an investigation.
"When you look at the video, compare it with the report, you can tell it's not true, it's a false report and a false arrest. That's probably the biggest crime in
this case, nothing Ms. Wilson did, but what they did to her," said Wilson's other attorney Richard Brown.
News4Jax showed the convenience store surveillance tape to News4Jax Crime and Safety Analyst Gil Smith and he doesn't agree with Wilson's lawyers.
"It's just so difficult because we don't have the audio. We can't hear the police commands," said Smith. "We can't hear if she's complying, or refusing."
Without audio, Smith says it's not an open and shut case to him.
"They say she was yelling back at the person in
the police car. That would be interference with an investigation. They ask her to stand back, and she does, but then she comes back again. The problem is we can't tell what the police are saying, or what she's saying to them. So it's difficult to know how she's interfering in the investigation," added Smith.
Wilson tells us she believes recording the officers with her phone's video camera is what got her in trouble with the officers. News4Jax asked Smith if officers can be justified in demanding someone's phone. He says yes, depending on the circumstances.
"There's a possibility, if she's on phone, calling people to come to the scene - then that could be a danger to police officers. So you definitely want to stop that," said Smith.
Without knowing what's being said in this instance, Smith says the officer's commands may have been lawful orders and officers may have been justified in arresting Wilson.
News4Jax asked the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office to comment in this story and said the agency could not respond with the case pending. The State Attorney's Office also said it could not comment but released this statement:
"The State Attorney's Office has evaluated
the facts and circumstances in this case and filed the appropriate charge. A jury will determine if the Defendant is guilty of this charge."
But, both agencies point out that all three officers testified in the arrest report that Wilson did not cooperate or comply with police and that is why she was arrested, not because of her cell phone.
According to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, there is no expectation of privacy while in public and it is not illegal to record in public. An officer being recorded while in the performance of their duty is no exception to that rule. If while recording, a subject interferes with the performance of an officers duty, they could be charged with obstruction. If while recording, a subject is given a lawful order by an officer while in performance of their duty and that subject refuses to obey the lawful order, they could be charged with resisting. The simple act of recording would not be the reason for arrest.
Wilson asked the court to throw her case out, but on October 6, 2015, the judge denied the motion.