As I was preparing for my trip to Gigante last month, I found a mysterious audio file on my voice recorder.
I couldn’t figure out where it was from. Then I recognized the voice of Enrique “Henry” Trevino, the US marshal who arrested me and twice swore out false affidavits against me just a little over two years ago. The audio is from the day after they arrested me, May 12, 2010. It was recorded by the marshals themselves.
For readers unfamiliar with the story, here it is in a nutshell. Julian Heicklen, bad-ass senior pamphleteer, Jim Babb, a superstar spokesman for liberty, and myself were visiting federal courthouses in the Philadelphia area in April and May 2010. Julian does this all over the country. Jim joined Julian in handing out fully informed jury (FIJA) pamphlets while I recorded what happened. I was threatened once, attacked another time and simply questioned a third time (see videos at end of article). We were promoting a good cause while exercising our rights as allegedly guaranteed under the first amendment to the constitution. My videos were watched tens of thousands of times and consistently upvoted on Reddit.
Until we arrived in Allentown on May 11, that was. Overly aggressive marshals harassed us. One grabbed my camera. I held on to the camera tightly. More piled on me. I was charged with felony assault, caged for 2 days, endured 6 weeks of house arrest and had my license to carry a firearm revoked before accepting a plea deal for what amounted in the end to a $500 parking-ticket-level violation. Meanwhile there was a most welcome outpouring of solidarity from Reddit and the liberty community.
The marshals deleted video and audio of their attack from three separate devices of mine. But I recovered enough to show that they were the ones who attacked me. And I got their own security camera footage.
Did I Make them “Look Like Douches”?
So how did I get this audio file? Trevino himself gave it to me on September 1, 2010, along with my video cameras and firearms, all of which had been seized by the marshals during their criminal proceedings against me. It also appears that Trevino is responsible for turning on the voice recorder.
But I have the audio file and after examination, it has several interesting comments from Trevino, another marshal who attacked me, Chris Headabig (Probably spelled wrong. He might also be, or have been, a state cop), supervisory marshal Bryant Semenza (who forced me to give up the camera by kneeing me in the mouth) and unidentified others. The highlights include:
- Trevino says he does “not have a good feeling” about arresting me.
- Headabig may have felt that my videos made the marshals “look like douches.”
- Semenza might imply that our filming outside the courthouse was a breach of security.
- Semenza wishes I had been carrying a firearm when they arrested me.
- Semenza says that Julian “got locked up in New York … for [sic] same thing.”
- Headabig says that Jim Babb “is the one I wanted the most.” He jokes about tasing Jim for so long that he has to change the batteries in the taser.
Here’s a partial transcript of the file, with just the interesting parts noted and audio outtakes for your listening convenience.
Headabig: Semenza’s out of line.
Did you … the emails last night?
I sent one back. I said, yeah them flicks showed up 10 minutes late and he kept asking him is it safe while he tased him in the teeth.
Trevino: I called him last night. I said, Bryant [Semenza] I do not have a good feeling about this.
Headabig: What, you don’t have a good feeling about the .. the arrest?
Headabig. Ah. Ah, it’s fine.
Trevino: These guys the ones you worry about because they’re the ones .. the fucking … tie up … (unintelligible)
Semenza: I can see these guys coming here and starting some shit.
Semenza: Something about a photo of Trevino (perhaps the one above) and death threats (see analysis below for possible context).
Headabig: I don’t know, it kinda makes us look like douches though.
With Semenza he might be comparing my filming in front of the Allentown federal courthouse with the military camp scene in Sacha Baron Cohen’s Bruno.
Semenza might be implying that our filming outside the courthouse was a breach of security.
Semenza: Hey, listen, alls I know is you assaulted that poor … (unintelligible)
Trevino seems to mock Semenza.
Unknown: I’m here because you can’t handle it. I’ll take care of this. I’ll get into a true fight and show you how to beat somebody up. Not make Claire [Burns?] fight your battles.
Trevino?: (whispering) … He has to be fully processed …
(I refused to answer all the questions the Allentown marshals asked me.)
Headabig: (joking) Like, get him, get him. He’s got a gun.
Semenza?: You know what, too bad that fucking asshole didn’t have a gun on him yesterday.
Unknown: You know what, can’t you go for his gun permit if he’s being charged with a felony.
Semenza?: If he’s convicted. Yes. He loses it. [They got it revoked anyway, and after they dropped the felony charge.]
Semenza?: And you know, Ricky and I were talking here. We’re NRA members. This is the type of guy that gives the NRA a bad name.
Unknown: Oh yeah.
Trevino?: What’s this thing about the other guy being on probation?
Semenza?: The old guy is on pre-trial release. $50,000.
Trevino?: What’s the old guy? The 90-year old guy? [Julian]
Semenza?: Yeah, he got locked up in New York … for same thing.
Unknown: How about that other guy? That jerk, the other guy with the wavy hair? [Jim]
Unknown: He’s the wild one with the white shirt.
Headabig: (simultaneously) He’s the one I wanted the most.
Unknown: Did he have a record or something?
Semenza?: I don’t know. I’m going to try and run him today.
Headabig: He’s gonna get a record. Most times consecutively tased.
Headabig: We’ll be changing batteries.
Semenza?: I like the email. After Henry arrested him, 10 minutes later flick shows up …
Headabig: … starts tasing him in the teeth, asking him is it safe.
Trevino: I thought he was gonna praise his own email.
Headabig: Something about saving Semenza from pummeling protestors.
- Semenza apparently says that Julian was “locked up” in New York for the same thing as he and his team of marshals caged me for in Allentown. Trevino signed his name to two affidavits in which he swore it was true that I had struck Burns. I find it hard to believe that Trevino’s supervisor, who was present at the attack, didn’t participate in their framing of me. I am unable to find any evidence that Julian was ever accused of assaulting a US marshal (or anyone for that matter). Does Semenza know that the assault charges are fake? Do I have his admission on tape? You decide.
- It’s encouraging that at least one of the marshals seemed to regret their attack on me, for whatever reason.
- I hope that no one made death threats against Trevino, or any of the marshals. I condemn threats, which are just another form of violence. I abhor it and denounce it. In fact, if it happened, it probably harmed me. Given the militia association described below, I can contextualize the Philadelphia marshals’ ridiculous claims that I was “the next Timothy McVeigh.”
I was mentioned in the May 21, 2010 edition [PDF] of the Pennsylvania state homeland security intelligence bulletins (which were released shortly after my case wrapped up). Here is an excerpt:
Anti-authoritarian and self-declared libertarian activist George Donnelly was arrested by US marshals in Pennsylvania on 12 May 2010, leading to several calls to action on his behalf among American Resistance Movement (ARM) members (although it is far from clear that ARM and Donnelly are “on the same page”, in a practical sense).
Donnelly was arrested (or “attacked” and “mugged and kidnapped” in ARM communications) by federal officers outside the Allentown federal courthouse. According to libertarian activists, he was filming “Fully Informed Jury Association” activists as they handed out pamphlets to jurors entering the courthouse, as well as recording the behavior of the law enforcement agents on the scene. After his arrest, Donnelly was held in a Federal Detention Center in Philadelphia. By the next day, he was released under some restrictions.
Photographs of the US agents involved in the arrest have been shared on militia and libertarian forums. In one communication, a Donnelly supporter said: “All readers in the Philadelphia area are encouraged to ostracize these criminals.”
This was the first time I had heard of ARM.
- I’m chuckling if Semenza thinks we were going to “start some shit.” Seriously? A senior citizen and two overweight 40-something dads? Really?
- If Headabig thinks my videos make him and his fellow marshals “look like douches”, well that’s out of my hands. The marshals and security guards took care of that themselves.
- It’s also curious how Semenza and the other marshals apparently go on about my filming being a security breach. Why? Because the prosecutor, Seth Weber, and the judge, Henry Perkin, harped on this claim ad nauseum in court. At my final appearance, one of them went on and on about 9/11 and the other about Oklahoma City to show just how important federal building security is. Setting aside the obvious hyperbole, how did they know which one was going to talk about which terrorist attack? Was there communication or collusion among Trevino, Weber and Perkin?
- In the exchange at 12:06 is Trevino talking to the unidentified court security officer who is on film as having initiated the marshal attack on me? Or is it Semenza talking to Trevino?
- Semenza comes off as a cowboy in his comments. Headabig comes off as out of his league. His boasts about violence are excessive. When Semenza says he wishes I had been armed, I think he might have actually shot and killed me. When Headabig jokes about tasing Jim, it’s incredibly sick and depraved but I’m not so sure he would do it. I think he’s just trying to prove that he’s as tough as the other marshals.
- Trevino doesn’t sound very enthusiastic about taking the lead on my arrest and prosecution. Did he regret his actions?
- Can marshals legally run criminal background checks on anyone they like, even people who aren’t under arrest or suspected of committing a crime? That seems like an abuse of power.
- Semenza used to work at the federal building in New York where Julian has pamphleted and been arrested countless times. He was in charge of security for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing trial, which took place there. Semenza likely has a direct line to some of the same people who have so repeatedly and harshly harassed Julian in Manhattan. I’ve long suspected that there was communication (and possibly a conspiracy to frame one or more of us) between the Philadelphia marshals from our April 8 outreach and these guys in Allentown. (Many of the marshals you see in the April 8 video took a great interest in my Philadelphia court appearance May 12.) This information adds a new dimension to my suspicion.
Why I am Releasing This
My reasons for releasing this are very simple.
- I have a responsibility to the hundreds of people who supported me morally, financially and by protesting to share all information collected so that this can serve as a learning experience for the liberty community.
- As an independent journalist, this is quite a story for my little blog.
- Bryant Semenza might be admitting in the recording that I was charged with something I didn’t do. This is of great personal interest to me for obvious reasons.
- I am not doing this to be vindictive or to hurt the marshals. I don’t hate them or wish anything bad for them. You shouldn’t either. I am obviously outraged by what they did to me. But I want them to thrive as much as I want that for myself. With their criminal actions, they are first and foremost hurting themselves. I’d like to see them stop, for their own good. (If you threaten, commit or even think about using violence against the marshals over this, you are hurting me first. Don’t do it.)
The original audio file is more than two hours long. This is a 25-minute clip (all consecutive) of the most interesting part. Download the file directly to your computer or listen below.
How US Marshals Framed a Peaceful Photographer
This is a 15-minute video summary of the whole Allentown incident that I released September 22, 2010. It does not include security camera footage or this recently discovered audio.
Security Camera Video
This is a narrated compilation of the security camera footage, which hasn’t been published here before. The quality is unbearable. This is after they made me wait weeks while they sent it somewhere for processing. Unusable security cameras seem like more of a security risk than an out-of-shape 40-something with a cheap camera. (Originals: camera 1, camera 6.)
Previous Videos of Jim and Julian Distributing Pamphlets
What do You Think?
Please share your comments below. If you listen to the audio and come up with confirmations, corrections or alternate theories, I’d especially enjoy hearing what you have to say.