February 8, 2009

How to get $8,000 for taking a photo of a woman "laying on her stomach with her skirt pulled up over her butt."

Key step: Get arrested.
[From a distance of 15 feet,] Actor Robert Kabakoff snapped a photo of a woman's bottom as she sunned herself in Central Park...

[H]er friend saw and admonished him with a wag of her finger.

Before he knew it, the woman was talking to cops and Kabakoff was handcuffed in the back of a police cruiser.

During the next 18 hours, he was charged with "unlawful surveillance," a felony, and spent the night in jail. The charge was later dropped, and Kabakoff sued.
The city settled the lawsuit for $8,000, getting off cheap, I'd say.

What makes people — even cops — think photography is a crime? It's one thing to manipulate a camera into a position to take a photograph up under a woman's skirt, quite another to respond to a woman who lies down with her skirt hiked up to sun her ass in Central Park.

Finally, credit is due to The Daily News for: "It was a bum rap."

IN THE COMMENTS: Dan from Madison says:
This also happened to me, but at least I didn't get arrested.

About six months ago I took a photo of a car in front of me because the bumper sticker was funny and I wanted to share it with a few people. Little did I know.

Driving the car was an 18 year old woman who had issues with others in her past. She called her parents who the cops and gave them my license plate number.

About two weeks after that I received a visit from an officer asking why I was taking a photo of that vehicle, etc. etc. Eventually I got aggravated and politely asked the officer if I had done anything illegal. He responded "no" and then I (again) politely informed him that the conversation was over.

The not getting arrested part is key. Now, I do think we should be careful about doing things that may scare other people, and I'm sure that if you had thought this young woman might worry that I'm stalking her, you wouldn't have taken the photograph, even if you were certain it wasn't a crime. And I think it was fine for her to photograph you for future reference — in case you turned up again. But it amazes me that the police actually launched an investigation over a report of someone photographing their car. And it's interesting to know that if someone bugs you — you, meaning a woman — in Madison, the police will take you seriously. Perhaps too seriously. It shouldn't be too easy to be able to summon the police to intimidate people you don't like.

43 comments:

oldirishpig said...

Sigh......And where's the link to the offending picture? How can I judge for myself if I can't see the picture?

Pogo said...

This arrest is similar to the subpoenas of bloggers Instapundit recently mentioned.

That is, calling photography "unlawful survelliance" and suing bloggers for political posts permits the state to become ever more powerful.

These are the tools of authoritarianism. Coupled with the economic slide into depression, I expect this to expand in the coming years.

It's why libertarians and conservatives argue for small government in the first place. Once you give people the tools to gain control over a populace, they tend to use them against you.

br549 said...

One does have to wonder what would have transpired had the nature child been male, and the photographer female.

T My guess is the male would have been arrested for exposing himself in public, and the photograph taken by the female used for evidence in court.

Dan from Madison said...

This also happened to me, but at least I didn't get arrested.

About six months ago I took a photo of a car in front of me because the bumper sticker was funny and I wanted to share it with a few people. Little did I know.

Driving the car was an 18 year old woman who had issues with others in her past. She called her parents who the cops and gave them my license plate number.

About two weeks after that I received a visit from an officer asking why I was taking a photo of that vehicle, etc. etc. Eventually I got aggrivated and politely asked the officer if I had done anything illegal. He responded "no" and then I (again) politely informed him that the conversation was over.

jdeeripper said...

The city settled the lawsuit for $8,000, getting off cheap, I'd say.

He didn't deserve a penny. The taxpayers of NY were cheated out of $8,000 by a creepy dork with a camera and some scumbag lawyers.

I wish one of the guards had taken a picture of his useless ass while he was in his jail cell.

Crimso said...

Some guys have all the luck.

Ron said...

What makes people — even cops — think photography is a crime?

Authority of The State + Sexual Inadequacy is the base formula; modify as befits your jurisdiction.

Darcy said...

Outrageous.

A couple of years ago, there was a woman sitting in front of my son (14 at the time) and I on bleacher seats. She had low cut jeans on, and you could see all of her "tramp stamp" and a good bit of her thong underwear. I snapped a photo. I didn't think anything of it. She obviously wanted to be seen by many. She got her wish.

Ron said...

Darcy, you've inspired an idea for a reality show; Tramp Stamp Fantasy Camp. Think The Bachelor crossed with Hee Haw.

Richard Fagin said...

The police are tough enough when it is ordinary citizens being photographed. Police tend to go beserk when they get photographed, even stretching illegal wiretap statutes to the breaking point to bully the picture takers. Instapundit has a number of posts on the subject.

Yeah, 8 grand was cheap - not enough to deter the police misconduct in the future, unfortunately.

Darcy said...

Let's brainstorm that one, Ron!

John K. said...

I can't say I blame the police for wanting to question the guy taking a photograph of the car in front of him driven by a young woman. I mean, his explanation of wanting to take a photo of the bumper sticker makes sense (assuming the bumper sticker was that noteworthy), but until that explanation was given the snapping of the photo would have raised a big question in my mind if I was the young woman or a police officer.

John K. said...

The guy taking the pic of the ass on display in Central Park is a different matter. No explanation, inquiry or arrest needed.

ricpic said...

Take a picture of an ass
And all hell breaks loose,
Stuff our throats a trillion cash
And it cooks our goose.

jeff said...

"I can't say I blame the police for wanting to question the guy taking a photograph of the car in front of him driven by a young woman."

What about looking at the license number? He could then memorize it for use later. Shouldn't the cops want to question anyone who glances at the tag? When did it become illegal to take a picture of a publicly displayed License tag?

"I wish one of the guards had taken a picture of his useless ass while he was in his jail cell."
Jeeze. Quite the little creepy dork, yourself. Letting your inner fascist pop out?

blake said...

The city settled the lawsuit for $8,000, getting off cheap, I'd say.

He didn't deserve a penny. The taxpayers of NY were cheated out of $8,000 by a creepy dork with a camera and some scumbag lawyers.


Perhaps they won't flout the law in the future.

traditionalguy said...

Perfect example of conduct that is not a crime ( a written technicality ) but probably ought to be punished anyway to discourage it. The result is ecouraging to lawyers to see the NYPD reminded that living in an unwise way is not yet a crime. Did Mayor Bloomberg get this message too?

mydismalswamp said...

The KEY to this story of the woman in the car is the "issues with others in the past". She did what she felt was wise, and it was as one can never be too careful nowdays. The police did their job by following it up. It's better to check and find nothing than not and make the six o'clock news...

blake said...

Unless of course those "issues" were self-inflicted.

Laura(southernxyl) said...

"Issues" is a broad term.

One could speculate that she cries wolf a lot.

One could speculate that she has a very scary stalker and that the police are aware of it, and are trying to protect her.

Between the extremes of a policeman hauling a man off to jail because he took pictures of a car bumper, and ignoring a young woman's concern as if no one ever stalks and maims or kills a young woman, I'd think asking a few questions, convincing himself that there is no threat, and then walking away strikes a pretty good balance.

jeff said...

Again, you want the police to go talk to some guy for his legal conduct? And it doesn't matter what his neighbors think when the cops stop by? His co workers? What should happen is the woman files a report, the cops take the report. That's about it. No crime has been committed and there is nothing to investigate. Part of the risk of living in a free society.

jeff said...

"ignoring a young woman's concern as if no one ever stalks and maims or kills a young woman,"

Which is of course no where close to what I said, but since we are going down that road, then I assume you are good with them talking to anyone who looks at her tag. Or maybe looks at her on the street. Or maybe looks at her while bagging her groceries. After all, it's not like no one has ever maims or kills a woman they saw on the street. Or in the market. Or at work.
Or just maybe the cops could restrict their activity to those who break the law in some way. Perhaps the woman shouldn't have any bumper stickers on her car. Or do any single thing to attract any possible attention, if she is wanting the cops to harass someone who looks at her. Frankly the guy could take her picture and a picture of the tag and still not have done anything illegal.

Stephen said...

traditionalguy said:

Perfect example of conduct that is not a crime ( a written technicality ) but probably ought to be punished anyway to discourage it.

But I thought indecent exposure was a crime.

bruno said...

If your wife or girlfriend was alarmed by this type of behavior, she should call and expect the cops to look into it and indeed the cops have a responsibility to do so. As long as she is not being stalked or her restraining order is not being violated, there is no crime snf therefore no arrest. People should know better when taking pictures of others’ property or bumpers, if you know what I mean.

Peter said...

The NYPD should not have arrested the guy. One can take pictures in public places.

Now Dan from Madison, on the other hand, was not arrested. The LEOs did have to follow up the report. Once satisfied that Dan was not someone from the young woman's past that should have closed the deal.

Probably close to fifteen percent of the calls I answered during my career were not crimes. I've answered calls because a neighbor wanted his neibor to mow his yard. The calls must be answered and it is not the fault of the LEO that flakes have phones too. In such calls we do what we can to calm the situation down. That's why we hold Peace Officer's commissions.

John K. said...

If I was driving along minding my own business and saw somebody in the rearview mirror taking a picture of me and my car, I'd be like wtf? I don't think I'd be so perplexed that I'd slow down to get their license plate number and then call the cops as this woman did, but the taking of the photo would strike me as very suspicious, because there would be no evident reason for it (in contrast to the guy taking the picture of the ass in Central Park, whose motives, while not admirable, we can more easily infer).

Yes, no crime was committed by taking the pic of the car, but I believe it's part of a cop's job description to "investigate" (probably too strong a word in this case) suspicious activity. The guy who took the photo is not obligated to talk to the police, and if he shut the door in the officer's face the "investigation" should stop right there. But it actually might have helped the young woman's peace of mind when the officer talked to the person and found out he was just taking a pic of a funny bumper sticker, and relayed that to her. An officer merely knocking on the door, assuming he was professional and not accusatory about the whole thing (as this officer seems to have been), does not constitute harassment. I just had one knock on my door a couple weeks ago to tell me I needed to move my car in front of the house so the snow plows could plow the street, and I wasn't concerned in the least about what the neighbors might think about his visit.

I remember several years ago I picked up some fast food at the drive-thru and decided to pull into the mostly empty K-mart parking lot around 8 pm. The K-mart was closed, but the parking lot was shared by a tanning salon (which was quite a distance away from my car). After I was there about 2 minutes a police officer pulled up and said that a woman getting off work there was concerned that a car (mine) had pulled into the parking lot and there was a guy (me) just sitting there. (Actually, I was just sitting there stuffing my face.) The officer explained the situation, and told me to please move along. He was polite and I'm sure he realized that I was not up to no good, but I did feel kind of annoyed and a little embarrassed as I slinked off in my car because of some unknown woman's paranoia. But hey, if it made her feel better, great, and it wasn't a huge imposition on me. I guess technically that was private property and I didn't have a right to be there anyway.

Revenant said...

And it's interesting to know that if someone bugs you — you, meaning a woman — in Madison, the police will take you seriously.

It is hardly surprising. Men have been guilty until proven innocent for many years now, when there is any suspicion of rape/stalking/harassment directed at women.

A Jacksonian said...

The purpose of bumper stickers is to *get attention*.

When you *call attention* to your property by putting up attention-getting signage and stickers do NOT be suspicious when someone takes a photo of it: this is what you *asked for* by doing what you did.

If she had a regular car without stickerage, then she has an issue as she is not calling attention to herself or her vehicle. She did just the opposite and should expect in the digital age of cheap cameras that her car will be photographed due to her bumper stickers.

That is using the process called 'reason' to see that what one does has effects. She may have thought many things by putting bumper stickers on her car, but the one thing she did NOT think was that they would not be seen or noticed.

She got what she wanted.

And *complained about it*.

Locomotive Breath said...

Was a day the woman would have been arrested for indecent exposure.

Dan Collins said...

Pee Wee: [after seeing Mickey's broken handcuffs] So, what did you do.
Mickey: Well, I lost my temper and I took a knife and...
[short pause]
Mickey: Do you know those "under the penalty of law, do not remove" tags that they put on mattresses?
Pee Wee: Yeah.
Mickey: Well, I "cut" one of them off.

Larry J said...

I remember several years ago I picked up some fast food at the drive-thru and decided to pull into the mostly empty K-mart parking lot around 8 pm. The K-mart was closed, but the parking lot was shared by a tanning salon (which was quite a distance away from my car). After I was there about 2 minutes a police officer pulled up and said that a woman getting off work there was concerned that a car (mine) had pulled into the parking lot and there was a guy (me) just sitting there. (Actually, I was just sitting there stuffing my face.) The officer explained the situation, and told me to please move along. He was polite and I'm sure he realized that I was not up to no good, but I did feel kind of annoyed and a little embarrassed as I slinked off in my car because of some unknown woman's paranoia. But hey, if it made her feel better, great, and it wasn't a huge imposition on me. I guess technically that was private property and I didn't have a right to be there anyway.

What you were accused of is "parking while male", which is probably related to "driving while black." It is the assumption that because you are a male, you must be up to something bad.

Ann Althouse said...

I sympathize with you, Larry, but consider the more serious problem: going to your car in a deserted parking lot at night while female.

If you think about that, you might decide it's a good idea not to do things -- innocent things -- that scare women.

Squid said...

For those of you keeping score at home, a recap:

1) Men can't tell dirty jokes at work, because women might get upset.

2) Men can't leave the toilet seat up, because women might get upset.

3) Men can't eat in their cars, because women might get upset.

4) Men can't complain about crazy double-standards regarding the 51% of the population that insists it's equal yet stacks the deck (socially and legally) to assure preferential treatment.

Oh, crap... Sorry, ma'am. I'll shut up now. Please don't send me to The Camp.

Laura(southernxyl) said...

"Perhaps the woman shouldn't have any bumper stickers on her car. Or do any single thing to attract any possible attention, if she is wanting the cops to harass someone who looks at her."

Perhaps she should just wear a damn burkha if she doesn't want attention from you, is that what you're saying?

I am disappointed that an American man would be so intimidated by a uniformed cop simply asking him some questions.

How about: You were within your rights to take the picture. She was within her rights to be so concerned as to tell her parents. They were within their rights to be so concerned as to call the police. (May I add, that having a 21-yr-old daughter myself, and having watched on the news harrowing stories such as the girl abducted at her car at the Target parking lot a couple of years ago and taken away and killed, you had better believe that I would call the police.) And the police were within their rights to question you as to why you took the picture of her car. So what's the big tragedy, really? She sees you taking a picture of her car, not knowing who the hell you are or why you are doing it, and is supposed to get over it, and you have a uniformed cop asking you questions about taking pictures and you shouldn't be expected to get over it?

"What should happen is the woman files a report, the cops take the report. That's about it."

Yes, because the cop taking a report totally protects the woman if she's being stalked by a Ted Bundy wannabe.

Peter said...

"Perhaps she should just wear a damn burkha if she doesn't want attention from you, is that what you're saying?"

Maybe not a burkha, but she should probably think about keeping her bumper covered.

Peter said...

"I am disappointed that an American man would be so intimidated by a uniformed cop simply asking him some questions."

I am disappointed that you think it's appropriate for the police to harass a man who has clearly broken no laws.

Peter said...

"May I add, that having a 21-yr-old daughter myself, and having watched on the news harrowing stories such as the girl abducted at her car at the Target parking lot a couple of years ago and taken away and killed, you had better believe that I would call the police."

May I point out that that's a non sequitur?

Did the man at Target have a camera? Would it have aided in the abduction if he had?

If the man didn't have a camera, but just read the bumpersticker, would that be okay? How about if he wrote down the words on the bumpersticker? What if he didn't need to write down the words or take a photo because he has an unusually good memory?

What if he didn't have a camera, but accidentally looked at the woman instead? Should the police be called because he looked at her? I bet that the man at Target looked at his victim before kidnapping her. You can't be too careful.

Laura(southernxyl) said...

So I now have to have a list of everything that a criminal HAS ACTUALLY done, to worry about, rather than to use my common sense. Uh huh.

Being asked questions is now harrassment? Do you want to apply for another line on Squid's list of things that can't be done? "He told me a dirty joke! Wah!" "He asked me questions! Wah!"

Skip said...

Laura, it depends. Cop shows up, says 'just checking out this call, did you take the picture and why?' and you say 'thought it was a funny bumper sticker', cop says 'ok, have a nice day' and leaves. Nope, not harassment. Conversation lasts much longer than that (and by the poster's comment, it was long enough to get him aggrivated), then yes, it is harassment. This is common sense.

Laura(southernxyl) said...

Well, we don't know a number of things.

1 - Is the girl being stupid or does she have legitimate reason to be afraid? Her parents, and then the cop, took her seriously. That's all we have to go on here.

2 - How agressive was the questioning, really, and did the questionee have legitimate reason to be aggrieved? He admits the cop stopped when he said he was through with the conversation.

I don't think you can go through life with the expectation that nothing ever happen to harsh your mellow. People who try to do that end up on Squid's list.

Peter said...

"So I now have to have a list of everything that a criminal HAS ACTUALLY done, to worry about, rather than to use my common sense. Uh huh."

You still haven't gotten to common sense. A man was doing nothing illegal or threatening or dangerous, and yet you think he should be stopped by the cops, merely because of your lurid fantasy that anyone with a camera is a potential kidnapper?

Laura(southernxyl) said...

"stopped by the cops"?

"lurid fantasy that anyone with a camera is a potential kidnapper"?

You've demonstrated that you lost the argument, Peter. You can stop now.

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