Detroit, MI (TFC) – Scott Boman, a professor at a Wayne County Community College, and a local libertarian political candidate, has been found guilty of trespassing on the campus where he teaches.
According to Boman, he was leaving after one of his classes, when something caught his eye. Early absentee voting was being held on campus that day. When he walked by the voting area, there was prominent signage for the event, which was emblazoned with the name of a candidate, Janice Winfrey (running for City Clerk). Winfrey was the only one represented in this advertising, and its proximity to the Satellite Clerk’s office entrance hall troubled him.
Suspecting election fraud, he began to photograph the signage. “As soon as I took out my camera and pointed it at Janice Winfrey’s banner (which was draped over the voting location’s entrance) this one officer…” later identified as Olivia Moss-Fort “…stormed out of the polling place and shouted, ‘What do you think [you’re] doing?’ I responded that I was taking a picture of the banner.” Boman states. Then Boman entered the building, and spoke with election worker Ebony Allen, asking what the hours for the election were. After receiving the information, he left, and was approached by the person whom he had spoken with. At this time Boman was given different information, the person claiming that previous statements were incorrect. He had begun recording footage when he was reapproached, and the election worker started to vaguely protest to being filmed.
At this point, he claims he was again accosted by Moss-Fort, who was on campus at the time. From Boman’s account:
“I then went to take a picture of another nearby sign that read ‘Vote here Janice Winfrey City Clerk.’ At this point a poll-worker, came out to where I was taking the picture. I started recording video of our conversation regarding Winfrey’s signage when [Moss-Fort] who previously shouted at me came out and told me to put away the camera. I asked if my photography was illegal, and which law it violated. I emphatically stated that I would follow her instructions immediately if she asserted I was breaking the law, but she could not cite any.”
When the reason for his being detained was ultimately provided, it was “trespass.” The stated law that was violated reads as follows:
Municipal Code of the City of Detroit, Sec. 38-7-4(c)
It shall be unlawful for any person to enter and remain in any public, private or parochial school, or on surrounding school grounds within two hundred fifty (250) feet of the school building, between 7:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. on days when school is in session, except for regularly-enrolled students, or teachers or other employees, who have not been excluded from the school on the applicable date, unless the person has first proceeded to the administrative offices and identified himself or herself to the principal or the principal’s designee.
I’ve been sent copies of both the faculty and employee’s handbooks, and upon reviewing them, not only is the word “principal” nowhere to be seen, but it only uses “teacher” as a descriptor, not a job title. This is because, as titles, those are usually, if not exclusively, reserved for K-12 education. There is, in that case, no “principal” to report to for permission to be present on campus grounds. If we assume that the enforcement of this law on a college campus was legitimate, then it only follows that the law itself is unenforceable. So why did it work?
While Boman wasn’t behaving in a legally unauthorized manner, and there was no legitimate reason to cite him for trespass, he was asked to leave. He agreed to leave, and proceeded toward his car. Having election materials, however, and being that he was passing by people that were handing out literature at a legally authorized distance, he stopped for a moment to do so. After this, he was accosted yet again, and eventually assaulted. Boman was thrown to the ground and this is where his detention officially began.
Boman states that he was held, handcuffed, in a room for hours, and not allowed to move. He says that when he asked for an explanation of his detention, and received no reasonable answer, he started to leave many times, each time he was ordered to sit down again. This obvious abuse of power reached a fever pitch when he was taken down yet again, and put in what he’s now had identified as a “pretzel lock.” He was left this way for an extended period of time. This resulted in disabling numbness that restricted his motion, and caused him to be without the use of an arm for several months afterward. He was forced to go through physical therapy in order to regain use of his arm. He also claims he was deprived of water, despite repeatedly requesting it.
This whole incident was additionally troublesome, since it prevented him from attending a candidates’ forum. When he brought this up to the officers who were present, they allegedly laughed, and said things like “that’s politics,” dismissing the whole situation. During this, Boman states that the camera footage he took of the claimed instigation was scrubbed (thoroughly deleted) from his device.
He says he was then led to his car, told that if he deviated, looked around, or did anything at all, he’d be arrested. His now broken camera was placed in the trunk, and he left. He got to the forum, and spoke his piece at the last moment, detailing the unfortunate events of the day.
The question arises, however: if all of this happened on a campus, why wasn’t there camera footage of it?
Their answer? The cameras don’t record.
That’s right, there were cameras there, lining the path of the incident, including the room he was held in, but those cameras are allegedly only for observation purposes, and not for record keeping on a responsible campus. They don’t store the data, just let security see it, so they can ominously ask “what are you doing?” if you move too much in this holding cell on campus. So, when his camera was damaged, and the memory damaged, there would be no footage to present in court.
Wayne County Community Colleges apparently have less recording technology in their camera systems than most have in their front pocket. Maybe that’s why, when they saw a camera, they felt threatened. Accountability seems pretty frightening when one isn’t used to it.
The trial is where it gets stranger. When the deleted video was initially brought up, the prosecution tried to reject the exhibit, claiming that Boman wasn’t qualified to speak about file recovery (even though the information is publicly available on YouTube, and other sites).
THE COURT: What’s the relevance?
MR. HILL: To show that my client wasn’t the one that had possession of the camera the entire time and somebody deleted relevant evidence.
THE COURT: Those pictures show — okay, well —
MR. HILL: There was four videos.
THE COURT: Is there an objection
MS. CRESPO: Yes, your Honor. I’m going to object to them. I mean even just based on just a few sentences back the witness stated himself he’s a math professor of physics. He doesn’t deal with computer technology. He’s not able to tell us for certain that this is what was actually listed on the card because he never seen the card prior to, so to me these would be assuming that something was actually done to his information.
(Source: People of the City of Detroit vs. Scott Avery Boman)
Additionally, the judge, with no actual laws broken, had to rely on prosecution for the case. This meant no outright rejection of misdirecting questioning, like when Crespo, the prosecution, tries repeatedly to make Boman give her definite statements she could catch him on. Interestingly, the stenographer actually misspelled his name (transcribed, “B-O-W-M-A-N” on record), even as he read the spelling aloud. Makes one wonder what else wasn’t appropriately recorded.
In the end, the judge completely rejects the defense, almost flippantly. The entire defense is outright rejected, even though all of the evidence appeared to a reasonable mind to exonerate Boman from any wrongdoing. I guess the idea that being assaulted, caged, and damaged, despite not committing any crimes, is not enough reason to prevent the court from sending someone to jail or penalizing them. It should outrage anyone that this is possible, much less acceptable. So, here are a few solutions.
Boman has provided a list of remedies to these issues in a statement to the WCCCD Board. These include file hosting of security camera footage in a neutral location, along with a scrupulous review process prior to manipulation of the files. He feels that this will allow victims of criminal acts, public or private, on campus to have better access to the restitution they rightly deserve. Similarly, he has asked for neutral file storage of all emails related to incidents on campus, and a notifications system for the illumination of any revisions to existing files. Additionally, he wants independent victims’ advocates on campus, to be an impartial party to incidents of potential legal and/or ethical interest, so that potential victims can be empowered to act.
Bottom line? Transparency is important, and the system, whether the verdict was reasonable or not, needs reform. Things like this have to stop, and when they happen, it certainly shouldn’t take years to find justice. All parties involved are invited to comment.
If you want to support Scott, share this article. Help spread awareness. Maybe things will improve in the end.