On Friday, Massachusetts state police trooper Kenneth Harold added perjury to the list of crimes he has committed. Harold lied on the witness stand about threats he made during a traffic stop while sworn in at a court hearing related to a traffic citation he issued to Examiner reporter Maya on December 6, 2013.
A video Maya shot during the traffic stop where Harold issued the citation shows that he became angry and threatened to steal (or, in his words, “take”) her camera because he didn’t want to be recorded. Later, Harold approached the driver’s side of Maya’s car, where he could yell at her from a closer, more threatening proximity. He accused her of violating “the wiretap law” and yelled at her to point her camera away from him.
The officer was completely wrong about the law. Under Massachusetts law, it is legal to openly video and audio record others with or without their consent. Massachusetts wiretapping law only criminalizes surreptitious audio recording. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court stated more than a decade ago in the case Commonwealth v. Hyde that a recording is not surreptitious as long as the recording device is “held… in plain sight.” Additionally, a federal court ruling in 2011 specifically stated that openly recording public officials is a well-established right protected by the First Amendment. That ruling stemmed from an incident in which a man was arrested for recording Boston police officers making an arrest with his cell phone.
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Maya’s assertion of her right to document the traffic stop upset Harold and he subsequently issued her a citation for failing to get her vehicle inspected. After Harold presented the citation, he refused to give his name, did not request that the citation be signed, and abruptly walked away without ever telling Maya if she was free to leave the traffic stop.
When Maya was cross-examining Harold, the two had the following exchange:
Maya: When you pulled me over, did you threaten to steal any of my property?
Harold: No, I did not.
Maya: So, you didn’t threaten to take anything of mine?
Harold: No, I did not.
Shortly after, the two had this exchange:
Maya: Did you have a warrant to take my camera?
Harold: I’m sorry?
Maya: Did you have a warrant to take my camera?
Harold: [dodging the question] I didn’t take your camera.
Maya: But you threatened to.
Harold: No, I did not threaten to.
Harold’s testimony blatantly contradicts the video of the traffic stop. As the video shows, Harold noticed that Maya was recording him shortly after approaching her car window and ordered her to turn the camera off. “It’s illegal to audio or visually record me without my permission,” he said. When Maya refused, Harold threatened to steal the camera. “I will ask you one last time, then I will take that from you,” he said.
Harold’s temper flared up again during the court hearing when Maya asked him about his understanding of the wiretapping law. Harold accused her of turning the hearing into a “circus,” leading the judge to chastise him for his emotional outburst.
Harold also falsely testified that he identified himself verbally to Maya during the traffic stop, which he did not do despite Maya’s request. Seconds later, he contradicted his previous testimony, saying that he did not give his information verbally, but had written it on the citation. That was also untrue. While he did write his badge number, the only “name” he wrote was an illegible scribble. Harold’s refusal to provide his name during the stop is a violation of state police policy which reads that state troopers must “furnish their name, current duty status, and identification number to any person requesting that information when they are on-duty or while they are acting in an official capacity.”
Harold offered his inaccurate testimony even though he claimed that he remembered the traffic stop “very well” and stated that he had seen the video of the stop. Harold committed perjury seemingly without fear of legal consequence even though he knew the video would show he was lying when presented as evidence to the court.
During the hearing, Maya asked Harold if he complied with Massachusetts law by asking her to sign the ticket when he presented it to her. Instead of answering the question, Harold pointed out that he had signed the ticket. Maya again asked Harold if he had asked her to sign the ticket. Harold relied “I don’t have to.” Maya then read the Massachusetts law stating that police are required to request a signature and asked again why the officer did not ask her to sign the citation. Harold replied “Because I’m not required to.”
Harold testified that he pulled Maya over after running her plate number and seeing that her car registration was expired. When asked why he ran her plate, Harold could not name any traffic violations committed by Maya before he began investigating her. He testified that it was his “job” to run plate numbers even if he didn’t see the driver commit any traffic offenses beforehand.
Harold has shown that he does not care about the law or safety. He has no problem threatening to steal property if he doesn’t get his way. He also has no problem lying in court. Furthermore, as Maya pointed out during the hearing, Harold’s own testimony indicated that his driving the night of the traffic stop posed more of a danger than her’s. Since Maya was driving the speed limit, Harold must have been speeding to catch up to her. He was doing so without his siren or lights on (until he decided to pull her over) and was not responding to an emergency call. In addition to speeding, Harold admitted that he was reading license plates off cars for no particular reason, typing the numbers into a computer, and looking up information about drivers instead of paying attention to the unlit, pitch black road.
Maya challenged the ticket on the basis that the ticket was issued punitively by an officer who became enraged and threatened her at her for exercising her right to document the traffic stop. She also argued that the citation was not valid under Massachusetts law which requires police to request a signature when presenting a traffic citation in person. She also pointed out that Harold, the only witness against her, lied during the hearing.
Despite Harold’s threats, lies, failure to issue the citation properly, and other unprofessional behavior, the judge found Maya responsible for the $50 traffic violation.
After the hearing, Harold refused to speak with Examiner reporter Andrew outside the courthouse about why he lied on the witness stand about threatening to steal Maya’s camera.
Harold works out of the State Police barracks in Leominster. His badge number is 3282. He was seen driving away from the courthouse in a state police cruiser with the license plate number 216.
According to The Boston Herald, his job paid him $$129,102.13 in taxpayer money last year. In the past two years, his job has paid him more than a quarter of a million dollars.