A Bar Harbor couple are suing a Portland police officer, saying he arrested them without provocation after they recorded a separate police arrest on their cellphones.

The Portland Police Department has opened an internal investigation into the incident but would not comment on its status, saying it is a personnel matter that is still pending.

The lawsuit, brought with the assistance of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, says Jill Walker and Sabatino Scattoloni were charged with obstructing government administration on May 25.

The couple had been filming an interaction between five officers and a woman who had been pulled over on Cotton Street near Pleasant Street, the lawsuit said. They were about 25 feet away and were not interfering with the officers, it said.

Sgt. Benjamin Noyes, a 17-year veteran of the department, told the couple to leave and when they asked why, they were arrested and taken to Cumberland County Jail, where they were fingerprinted, searched and kept in a holding cell for more than two hours before making bail, the lawsuit said.

“I was in shock to be quite frank. We certainly didn’t feel we’d done anything wrong,” Walker said. “If something like that could happen to us, who else is it happening to?”


The couple were released on bail and the district attorney declined to prosecute, the complaint said. The woman whom police were interacting with was charged with drunken driving and two counts of assault on a police officer but those charges also were dropped.

“The right of citizens to observe and record the police is a critical check on the use of power and force,” Zachary Heiden, legal director for the ACLU of Maine, said Tuesday. “The police need to understand that individuals who are quietly observing their work from a distance have a right to do so, and it is not cause for their arrest.”

Heiden declined to make videos of the incident available, but said they support the couple’s version of events.

There have been several high-profile incidents of people being arrested or intimidated while videotaping police elsewhere. In New York, an activist and candidate for governor was allegedly arrested by plainclothes transit police after he videotaped the arrest of another man. He was charged with menacing a police officer, obstructing government administration, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct, according to media reports.

Heiden cited cases in New Hampshire and Massachusetts that were ruled on by the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston, but said it has not been a problem in Maine. In the Massachusetts case, the court said citizens do have the right to videotape police making an arrest and that right should have been evident to the officers.

In the Portland case, the couple had been out dancing on a Saturday night and were walking back to their hotel near Spring Street when the incident occurred just before midnight.


Initially they were across the street from police, but then they crossed and were about 25 feet away, but were not interfering with the officers, Walker said.

Two other officers asked them if they knew the suspect being arrested – they said no and were left alone, the complaint said. Then Noyes told them they had two seconds to leave.

“I said, ‘Why?’ (Scattoloni) said, ‘We’re just standing here.’ And we were cuffed,” Walker said. “It was surreal.”

Neither Walker nor Scattoloni has a criminal record.

The lawsuit alleges they were arrested without being given their Miranda warnings. The warning is required if a person’s statements are to be used as evidence in court.

Walker said once in jail she encountered the woman whose arrest they were recording. The woman told her she passed a field sobriety test, but failed a breath test she took at the police station. Walker said they did not see the woman being combative with police.


Walker and Scattoloni were released from jail in the early morning of May 25 on $2,500 unsecured bond, meaning they agreed to appear in court or could face a fine of that amount.

Obstructing government administration, a Class D misdemeanor, requires intentional interference with police, something the couple maintain they did not do.

Noyes’ police report paints a different picture of the incident.

As an officer was interacting with the woman who was pulled over, his report says, she rolled up her window on his arm. The officer told Noyes that the people across the street – presumably the couple – “were cheering while he was being assaulted.”

Noyes said he later saw Walker and Scattoloni had moved to within 12 to 15 feet, the report said. “I directed the two people to leave, advising them they were obstructing government administration,” the report said. “I told them they had two seconds to move across the street or be arrested.

“Due to the combative nature of the arrestee, their proximity to the combative female, and their refusal to follow my commands, I directed (officers) to arrest the two people,” he said.


The lawsuit accuses Noyes of lying in his report.

“It made it sound like we were right on top of the scene and that … was not the case, and we certainly weren’t hooting or hollering,” Walker said.

The suit seeks unspecified damages and attorney’s fees.

The suit names only Noyes as a defendant, not the city, but the city will pay for Noyes’ attorney as called for under a collective bargaining agreement.

“The department takes their allegations very seriously,” a statement from the city said, noting that Police Chief Michael Sauschuck opened an internal investigation in July when alerted by the ACLU.

Portland City Councilor Edward Suslovic would not comment on the incident, but says police are aware they operate in the public eye.


“They accept the fact they are in the fishbowl. They not only assume everyone they encounter has a camera, there are cameras in every cruiser and officers put on microphones when they get out of the cruiser,” said Suslovic, who chair’s the council’s public safety committee.

The International Association of Chiefs of Police has a policy on the topic which reads in part:

“Members of the public, including media representatives, have an unambiguous First Amendment right to record officers in public places, as long as their actions do not interfere with the officer’s duties or the safety of officers or others.”

Assistant Cumberland County District Attorney Deborah Chmielewski said records at Cumberland County Unified Criminal Court indicate there was probable cause for the arrest but a decision was made not to prosecute. The court file does not indicate a reason for the dropped charges.

The lawsuit was filed in Hancock County Superior Court in Ellsworth.


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