Orwell warned that cameras controlled by those in power are something to be feared. He failed to mention how much power cameras would give the powerless.
Today’s example comes from West Virginia, where a young mother who shielded her dog from being shot by a state trooper has been cleared of obstruction charges.
If the scene hadn’t been captured on video and distributed on social media, Tiffanie Hupp, 23, would likely have been forced to pay a fine and/or go to jail.
Thanks to the video, which supported her story and contradicted the rookie officer’s account, she has no criminal record and the dog, Buddy, is still breathing.
Last April, Hupp’s father-in-law called police to report an argument with his neighbor.
An arriving state trooper, Seth Cook, pulled a gun and pointed it at Buddy, who was chained up in Hupp’s yard. Video shows Hupp moved between the officer and the dog and the officer then grabbed her, knocked her down, bent her over the hood of his car and handcuffed her.
The dog does not seem dangerous in the video. It seems to bark a bit but wags its tail.
Cook then entered the home and took three phones, her young son’s tablet and two chargers. She was detained for three hours and Cook allegedly identified himself as “Trooper Cooper” when Hupp asked his name. Cook initially wrote down a charge of domestic violence but it was later changed to obstruction.
Hupp said police refused to return the devices until the family provided passwords, but they refused to do so without a warrant.
It seems no warrant was obtained and the devices weren’t searched. When the devices were returned, Hupp’s husband posted the video to social media.
Hupp was assigned a public defender, who advised Hupp to not publicize the video and to take a plea deal.
“She just kept saying our best chances were to take a plea bargain, said Hupp in a Photography is Not a Crime article. “She kept saying I had to take a plea bargain or I might end up in jail for up to a year. I refused to take a plea to something I didn’t do.”
It turns out the public defender assigned to Hupp is the wife of the state trooper who supervises the state trooper that arrested Hupp.
“Talk about being a mouse in a trap,” said Hupp.
When Hupp requested a different public defender, her request was denied.
Private attorney David Schles saw the video and took Hupp’s case on for free.
“I was shown the video of the incident last August and I found it unjustifiable for Tiffanie to be charged with any crime for her reasonable, non-forcible, actions to defend Buddy the dog. When I was told the lawyer appointed to represent Tiffanie was married to a state trooper and did not inform Tiffanie of this relationship, I decided I would represent Tiffanie pro bono if she wanted my services,” Schles told The Free Thought Project.
The trial only took six hours.
Cook was the only officer to testify.
He is reported to have said state troopers in West Virginia are trained to shoot dogs they encounter, including friendly ones that are chained. That probably didn’t win over the jury.
Cook also said Hupp was armed with a crossbow and raised her arms during the encounter, but the video shows none of that is true.
The jury took 30 minutes to return a “not guilty” verdict.