Monday, May 16, 2011

Copwatch's John Kurtz emerges from exile for legal battle against OPD

Posted By on Mon, May 16, 2011 at 4:52 PM

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Remember John Kurtz? He’s the 27 year-old activist (and real estate broker, apparently) who exhumed police watchdog group Copwatch from the grave last October under a libertarian banner. Well, here’s a story we didn’t get to: a couple of hours into the new year, Kurtz was downtown on Church Street, filming an officer making an arrest, per Copwatch routine. What happened after that is murky—some kerfuffle ensued, the arresting officer claimed that Kurtz “intentionally used his left arm and hand and shoved” him after disobeying orders to back off; Kurtz says that he was “tackled to the ground” by an officer who has a “vendetta against video cameras.” Either way, Kurtz was charged with battery on a law enforcement officer, resisting without violence, and obstruction. He spent a week in jail, and largely disappeared from the public eye. Until today, that is. As expected, Johannes Michael Germann-Kurtz is fighting the charges against him, and early this morning, about a dozen Kurtz devotees congregated outside of the Orange County Courthouse before his scheduled court appearance. “They don’t want us to record them, but they don’t mind recording us,” said Matt Laffler, a supporter who held a large poster that read “I AM JOHN KURTZ.”

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Ironically, it may be police surveillance that could help exonerate Kurtz. According to Kurtz, the city’s relatively new system of IRIS cameras caught the moment on tape, which he says supports his side of the story, though he hasn’t supplied the video to the Copwatch website. “I’m not a fan of Big Brother, but it possibly could have saved my ass, I guess,” Kurtz said between cigarette drags before the hearing. But once in the courtroom, the Orlando Police Department’s lawyer revealed that a crucial piece of evidence – the camera Kurtz was using – is missing, and in addition, the officers involved still have not given their depositions. Thus, Kurtz supporters in the courtroom—many of them libertarians and Tea Partiers associated with the “Campaign for Liberty”--waited for nearly an hour only to see Kurtz’s case pushed back until the week of June 20. “Sorry it wasn’t the big show you may have been expecting,” said Kurtz’s laywer Mark Longwell to the congregation outside of Courtroom 10D. “But we still need to get to the bottom of where the video tape is, which is very important to this case.”

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