Pocatello police chief defends arrest of man filming public building

It happened in Pocatello and the police chief is defending the officer's actions.

POCATELLO - An eastern Idaho police chief is defending the arrest of a man who was videotaping the outside of a public building even though the officer who made the arrest cited a law that doesn't exist.

Pocatello Police Chief Scott Marchand has refused to release the name of the officer involved in the incident but said during a press conference Monday that the officer handled the situation well.

"He did what he thought was right at the time," said Marchand. "He made a decision and he was able to articulate what he did in a report so I think he handled it alright."

Sean Johnson of Chubbuck was videotaping the exterior of the FBI building in Pocatello when the officer approached and asked for identification, accusing Johnson of "public voyeurism." 

Johnson was arrested and later charged with resisting an officer, though police declined to release details on any conduct they believe merits the charge. Johnson's attorney, Curtis Smith, says the charge is unfounded and he's asking a judge to dismiss the case.

Katherine Macfarlane, a professor of law at the University of Idaho, said she doesn’t see Johnson’s actions fitting the charge.

"When you resist, delay or obstruct you have to do it willfully and being difficult is not enough,” she said.

She also said he did not break any laws when recording the FBI building.

"He absolutely has the right so long, as he is on public property himself, to film a federal building. There was a lawsuit settled in 2010 brought by the ACLU's New York chapter against the Department of Homeland Security establishing very clearly that federal buildings can be filmed,” she said.

Johnson has several other videos of confrontations with police on his YouTube channel. He is scheduled to appear in court next month. 

© 2017 KTVB-TV


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