Police Chief Calls Press Conference, Arrests Everyone in Attendance
Two Activists Facing Felony Charges for YouTube Comments Made By Viewers
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 25, 2018
Contact Jack Miller, Vice President
Leon Valley, Texas—On Saturday, June 23, 2018, around a dozen people, including credentialed reporters, were arrested after gathering for a late-afternoon press conference announced by Joseph Salvaggio, Chief of Police of Leon Valley, a suburb of San Antonio.
Video of the press conference was live streamed to YouTube by Jonathan Green, “Ohio Guardian 2.0.” Green traveled to Leon Valley with his father for the weekend to “document ongoing police abuse and brutality.” Earlier Saturday, Green was threatened with arrest while attempting to submit a written compliant to Salvaggio. Police refused to accept the complaint.
“First and foremost,” said Salvaggio as he walked out of city hall and approached the crowd that gathered. “Bao come over here, you’re under arrest.”
“Thank you for coming to Leon Valley. I totally, totally support your right to put something online, your First Amendment right,” said Salvaggio.
Salvaggio then arrested Green, seized Green’s video phone, and continued to live stream the arrests from his perspective.
“Everybody else, you are not free to leave… you are witnesses, every one of y’all are witnesses to the crime. Every one of your cameras, your devices, every one of them are going to be taken, every one of y’all, sit down right here.”
Salvaggio ordered officers to arrest everyone in the vicinity of the press conference. “Go back and get the rest of them, get every one of them.”
“Leon Valley launched a war against citizens who are attempting to hold them accountable,” said Jack Miller, Vice President of the National Association for Individual Rights. “They arrest people regardless of what the law says they can and cannot arrest them for. They go outside of the law to retaliate against people who are protesting them.”
Bao Nguyen, the first person arrested at the press conference, was charged with Retaliation, a Third Degree Felony. Texas hate crime laws criminalize the act of publishing public information about police officers, such as a home address. The law also criminalizes speech that threatens police or public servants.
Salvaggio explained the arrests at the press conference: “What you don’t have a right to do is be streaming things where police officers’ or anybody else’s family is being threatened… If you stream something, you are responsible for its contents. There’s death threats on y’alls YouTube Live, and every one of y’all will be held accountable for those death threats.”
James Springer was also charged with Felony Retaliation. Nguyen and Springer were each released Sunday on $5,000 bond. Although police have not released official arrest affidavits, activists speculate the police used YouTube comments made by internet viewers during live videos to justify the arrests.
Arrested witnesses were held outside in extreme South Texas heat, and police refused to provide access to water. On Saturday afternoon, the National Weather Service issued a statement about the heat danger, advising people to “take extra precautions if you work or spend time outside.” Paramedics transported arrested witness Kevin Egan of Chicago, Illinois to the hospital for a heat related emergency. Egan was treated and released from Methodist Hospital later that evening.
Brian Howd and Jason Green (father of Jonathan) were both arrested for resisting arrest, a Class A Misdemeanor, and Interfering with Duties of a Public Servant, a Class B Misdemeanor. The magistrate judge rejected the charges for both men. None of the others arrested on Saturday, including Jonathan Green, were charged with a crime.
Police and activists talked and joked with each other earlier in the week at a Leon Valley City Council meeting. Salvaggio invited Nguyen to sit next to him. “Come on down… I can put my arm around you. If you want, I’ll even kiss your ears,” Salvaggio said. The two sat together with Salvaggio’s arm around Nguyen.
The two-month-long controversy started when Jesus Padilla was arrested while filming inside Leon Valley City Hall on May 2, 2018. A city official told Padilla he could enter the hallway that led to the city administrators’ offices. Salvaggio saw Padilla filming, told him he was in a “restricted area,” and arrested him. Salvaggio later instructed city staff to lock the doors leading to the administrative area even though accessibility and evacuation concerns were raised. Salvaggio later referred to Padilla as his “little buddy.”
Miller was arrested on May 31, 2018 after protesting Leon Valley’s “illegal anti-gun signs.” According to the website DefendJack.com, Miller submitted an official complaint as required by law and later that night police arrested Miller, raided his home, and seized all of his cameras, phones, and memory cards.
On June 14, 2018, Mark Brown was arrested and tasered after filming inside the entrance to Leon Valley City Hall. Padilla, who was outside on the sidewalk, was also arrested.
David Bailey and Springer were arrested on June 18, 2018 while protesting inside the entrance to Leon Valley City Hall. Police seized cameras and phones from everyone who was near the scene of the arrests.
“It’s a war against free speech, it’s a war against accountability,” Miller said.
Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act provides that “no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”
Texas Penal Code 36.06 established Felony Retaliation. In an unrelated case in April, East Texas activist Stephen Wilson was indicted on multiple Felony Retaliation counts after publishing copies of public information that related to the family of Polk County District Attorney William Lee Hon.
Texas Penal Code 38.02(a) makes it a crime to refuse to identify only if lawfully arrested. A citizen who is a witness to a crime is not required to identify; however, it is illegal to provide false identification (see Section 38.02(b)(3)).
The National Association for Individual Rights’ mission is to promote accountability for government officials, to protect the Constitutional Rights of Americans and to establish a political, social, financial and legal presence to create change in public policy, in law enforcement, and in the criminal justice system.