CBS/SS held liable for filming search

Cerridwyn Llewyellyn (
Fri, 09 Aug 1996 22:22:14 -0700

Thought this may be of interest to this group. May help put an end
to police-propaganda-tv in US.

>Subject: Re: Boom!
>Organization: Federal Reserve B.O.G.
>Content-Id: <14316.839610907.0@bksmp2>
>Date: Fri, 09 Aug 1996 13:17:43 -0400
>From: "Thomas C. Allard" <m1tca00@FRB.GOV>
>Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"
>Content-ID: <14316.839610907.1@bksmp2>
> (Timothy C. May) said:
>> What recourse does he have that camera crews were invited in on the
>> searches?
>Article: 28633 of
>Xref: glendora alt.prisons:817 alt.privacy:7678
>From: (Dan Tenenbaum)
>Subject: CBS Liable for Filming Search
>Followup-To: alt.prisons
>Date: Fri, 8 Jul 94 15:52:58 EDT
>Organization: mellow owl mailing field
>Lines: 94
>Message-ID: <2vkaqq$>
>[Paul Wright, the imprisoned editor of Prison Legal News, sent me the
>following and asked me to distribute it widely on the the net because
>there has been no coverage of this in the mainstream media.
>Followups to alt.prisons because I read it. Nyah.
>Typos are mine.
>The article will appear in slightly different form in the next PLN. PLN
>is available from P.O. Box 1684, Lake Worth, FL 33460. $12 for
>subscriptions and $1 for a sample copy.
>Dan Tenenbaum ( or]
>CBS Liable for Filming Search
> In a landmark decision a federal court in New York has ruled
>that a CBS film crew and Secret Service agents are liable for filming and
>broadcasting a search of a private citizen's home. It is the first reported
>court decision to hold a television broadcaster liable for accompanying
>police agents on a search and filming it for the broadcast. Anyone who
>has watched "Cops," "Hard Copy," "America's Most Wanted," or any
>of the "real life" cop shows has seen the degrading and propagandistic
>manner in which the victims of police repression are portrayed. The
>broadcasters and the police can be sued and held liable for such
> In 1992 Secret Service agents obtained a search warrant
>from a federal court authorizing the search of an apartment shared by
>Babatunde Ayeni, his wife Tawa, and small son Kayode, seeking
>evidence of a credit card fraud operation. At 6PM on March 5, 1992,
>several Secret Service (SS) agents forced their way into the Ayeni
>residence announcing they had a warrant to conduct a search and
>ask questions. Only Mrs. Ayeni and her son were home at the time. At
>about 8:15 four more SS agents arrived with a film crew from the CBS
>news program "Street Stories." The CBS film crew was never identified
>as CBS employees. The CBS crew followed the SS agents and taped
>them as they searched the apartment. They took closeup shots of the
>home's interior, its closets, personal letters, family photos, etc. In the
>apartment's foyer an SS agent was interviewed about the modus
>operandi of people who commit credit card frauds and the tools of
>their trade. During this tape sequence the SS agent implied the
>complicity of the other residents of the Ayeni apartment. No
>evidence implicating the Ayenis in any illegal activity was found
>during the search. One of the agents was filmed expressing his
> The Ayenis filed suit against the federal agents as well as CBS,
>contending that the search and its filming violated their fourth
>amendment right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. In his
>opinion Judge Weinstein agreed with the Ayenis. The defendants sought
>qualified immunity, which the court denied.
> Under the doctrine of qualified immunity government agents are
>entitled to be free from liability for money damages even if they violate
>constitutional rights as long as the right is not "well established" so that
>a person of reasonable intelligence would know that the right violated
>was recognized. In the case the court held that any reasonable police
>agent would have known that it is unconstitutional to have private
>citizens accompany them on a search to film and broadcast the search.
>The court relied on 18 U.S.C. sec. 3105 which requires that search
>warrants be served by an official authorized to serve the warrant and
>by no other person unless their assistance is required in conducting the
>search, i.e. an accountant, forensic expert, etc., depending on the
>nature of the offense being investigated. Thus, the SS agents should
>have known that having a film crew taping their activities was illegal.
>Courts have previously held that taking photos is a "seizure" within
>the meaning of the fourth amendment. CBS also claimed qualified
>immunity from suit. The court notes that private entities are not
>entitled to qualified immunity from suit, it only applies to government
> The court used harsh language in condemning the actions by
>the SS and CBS. "The search warrant was issued to agent Mottola and
>other agents of the Unites States Secret Service for precise and limited
>purposes. It authorized their entry into the Ayenis' home only to search
>for items related to credit card fraud. Agent Mottola's act of facilitating
>the CBS camera crew's entry into the apartment and its filming of the
>search exceeded the scope of the warrant. It was allegedly in clear
>violation then well [sic] established fourth amendment principles.
> is the equivalent of a rogue policeman using his official position
>to break into a home in order to steal objects for his own profit or
>that of another."
> For immunity purposes it would be "...grossly unreasonable
>for a government agent not to have known that the presence of
>private persons he invited in so that they could titillate and entertain
>others was beyond the scope of what was lawfully authorized by
>the warrant.
> "CBS had no greater right than that of a thief to be in the
>home, to 'capture' the scene of the search on film and to remove
>the photographic record. The images, though created by the camera,
>are a part of the household; they could not be removed without
>permission or official right....The television tape was a seizure of
>private property, information, for non-governmental purposes."
> It is entirely possible that litigation by the victims of this type
>of police and media activity may be able to halt the spread of
>"police TV." Findings of liability against both police and the broadcaster
>will see to it that police activity is not broadcast to "entertain and
>titillate." So if you've been filmed against your will during a police
>search you too can sue for an invasion of your privacy and your
>fourth amendment rights. The court decision is reported at:
>Ayeni v. CBS, Inc., 848 F. Supp 362 (ED NY 1994).
>rgds-- TA (
>I don't speak for the Federal Reserve Board, it doesn't speak for me.
>pgp fingerprint: 10 49 F5 24 F1 D9 A7 D6 DE 14 25 C8 C0 E2 57 9D