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Protesters hand out leaflets during jury selection in CopBlock.org wiretapping case
MANCHESTER — About two dozen protesters were outside Hillsborough County Superior Court North Monday morning, greeting potential jurors in next week's trial of Adam Mueller, 30, who is accused of recording telephone conversations with a police officer, high school principal and school secretary without their consent.
“Good Jurors Nullify Bad Laws” read one homemade sign.
Others carried bright yellow signs, with wording in bold black saying: “Jury Duty? NHJury.com 1-800-TEL-JURY.”
The website advocates jury nullification, whereby a juror would vote his conscience and vote not guilty, even in cases where there is evidence of guilt.
The protesters were supporting Mueller — a founder of the website Copblock.org, who recorded the phone calls in connection with a video recording made of the arrest of a student in the cafeteria at West High School.
They also distributed pamphlets titled, “No Victim No Crime,” and “Your Jury Rights: True or False?”
The pamphlets provided information about jury nullification, and a hung jury, which is when a jury cannot reach a unanimous verdict and the defendant is either retried, or the case is dropped.
Clerk of Court John Safford said some of the people called for jury duty had been handed the pamphlets, but nothing was made of it by court officials.
Mueller, of Jackson, Wis., who goes by the alias Ademo Freeman, was indicted in November 2011 on three counts of wiretapping. He is accused of recording phone conversations with Manchester police Capt. Jonathan Hopkins, West High School Principal MaryEllen McGorry, and Denise Michael, a school secretary, all without their consent.
The conversations were about an Oct. 3 arrest of a West High School student in the cafeteria. The arrest by the school resource officer was videotaped by another student, who had met Mueller and Copblock.org co-founder Peter Eyre a few weeks before.
The video showed the officer grabbing the student, pushing him face down onto a cafeteria table and handcuffing him. Mueller used portions of his recorded phone calls with Hopkins, McGorry and Michael in a video he posted on Copblock.org.
The website and organization describes itself as “a decentralized project supported by a diverse group of individuals united by their shared goal of police accountability,” which documents “police actions whether they are illegal, immoral or just a waste of time and resources then putting direct pressure on the individuals responsible (ideally while recording and then later sharing).”
About a dozen of the protesters entered the courthouse to sit through Mueller's jury selection. While they did not stand when Judge Kenneth Brown entered the courtroom, they heeded his advice to stand when the 50 members of the jury pool entered, so as not to negatively affect the potential jurors' impression of Mueller.
A panel of 15 jurors — 10 women and five men — was seated in about an hour.
The trial will begin Monday and is expected to last one to two days. At its conclusion, 12 jurors will deliberate, with the remaining jurors designated as alternates.
Under the state's wiretap law, it is a crime to audio-record someone without that person's permission if the speaker has a reasonable expectation that what he is saying is not subject to interception.
Mueller and his supporters argue that a public official who is on duty and in a public space has no expectation of privacy.
Mueller says he identified himself as being from Copblock.org and was seeking comment about the incident, but edited that portion out of the video posted on the website.
Mueller is a member of the Free State Project, an effort to relocate 20,000 libertarian-minded people to New Hampshire to engage in the local political process in hopes of creating communities where government involvement is limited.
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