Privacy and civil liberties at stake in trial over filming of paramedics in Little Canada

  • Article by: CHAO XIONG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 26, 2014 - 9:35 PM

Andrew J. Henderson is charged with disorderly conduct. His lawyer says actions were protected by the Constitution.

Civil liberties and personal privacy clashed Wednesday in the trial of a Little Canada man charged after filming paramedics as they helped an intoxicated and possibly suicidal patient.

Kevin Beck, prosecuting for the city of Little Canada, argued that Andrew J. Henderson disrupted the paramedics when he refused to obey their request to stop filming them and their patient. Henderson’s attorney, Kevin Riach, countered that Henderson’s actions were protected under the First Amendment and that there’s no expectation of privacy in a parking lot.

Henderson, 29, was charged in January 2013 with interfering with or obstructing an ambulance crew member and disorderly conduct. Testimony began Wednesday in Ramsey County District Court as a handful of citizens concerned about government overreach watched.

Henderson testified last and said that he was filming two paramedics outside his Little Canada apartment complex on Oct. 30, 2012, when Ramsey County sheriff’s deputy Jacqueline Muellner confiscated his video camera.

Henderson said he let Muellner into the building and asked her what was going on. Muellner, now retired, replied that it was not a criminal matter, Henderson testified.

Henderson said that he sat on a bench near the building’s entrance to have a smoke and began filming when two paramedics brought out a tenant who was then frisked by Muellner.

The pat-down seemed “odd,” said Henderson, adding that he carries a camera with him and routinely films police in the field.

“[Muellner] told me that if she ended up on YouTube, she was going to be upset,” Henderson testified.

The man’s sister had requested a welfare check because he was an alcoholic, wasn’t answering his calls, quit his job and was recently in a car accident. Muellner testified that the patient allowed authorities into his apartment and took a Breathalyzer test that registered a blood alcohol content of 0.32 percent.

Muellner explained that a pat-down is standard protocol when a patient is being committed to the hospital under such circumstances.

Paramedic Joshua Norgaard testified earlier that he asked Henderson to stop filming because paramedics were asking the patient about his medical history.

“I want to protect [the patient’s] privacy,” Norgaard testified.

Norgaard said that he alerted Muellner to the filming.

Muellner said she confiscated Henderson’s camera because the call was a medical issue. She testified that she kept the camera in her squad overnight and then her office mailbox, an unsecure location, for a day or two before it was placed in a secure locker.

Henderson said that when his camera was returned three weeks later, the video was gone. He also testified that Norgaard did not approach him and ask him to stop filming. Henderson said apartment security asked him about his filming.

Jurors will return Thursday afternoon to hear closing arguments and begin deliberations.

 

Chao Xiong • 612-270-4708

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