Thursday, November 8, 2012

Photography Is Not A Crime: Carlos Miller's Attorneys Prove it Again.

Miami freelance photographer Carlos Miller likes to challenge authority. Many people say he is a “jerk”. He is a “bit” adversarial when it comes to police press relations and has been cuffed three times for it.

But there is no law that says, you can't be a jerk.

Miller was arrested while documenting city and county police officers evicting Occupy Miami protesters last January. In the days leading up to the eviction, police kept tabs on Miller's Internet posts and singled him out for arrest. 

Nine months after his latest run in, the verdict is out. On Thursday, November 8, Miami-Dade County jury found Miller not guilty for resisting without violence when confronted by Miami-Dade Police Public Information Officer Nancy Perez.

Arrested by a public information officer? That alone should raise a few eyebrows and question what the heck is really going on here.

According to a paraphrase on Miller’s blog, the prosecutor told jurors, a real journalist is supposed to follow police orders without a second thought. A real journalist would never back talk to police. A real journalist would never question a direct police order as to why he was not allowed to stand on a public sidewalk.

One of Miller’s defense attorneys, Santiago Lavandera, delivered a slam dunk, high five closing statement that went like this.

“In this country, when you’re a journalist, your job is to investigate.
Not to be led by your hand where the police want you to see, so they can hide what they don’t want you to see.

No, when you’re a journalist, a real journalist, it’s your job to go find the truth. As long as you are acting within the law as Mr. Miller was, you have the right to demand and say, ‘no, I’m not moving, I have the right to be here. This is a public sidewalk, I have the right to be here.’

He did his job. He has the right to do his job the way he sees fit. It’s not up to these prosecutors to tell anybody, much less an independent journalist, how to do their job. It’s not up to the police officers, it’s not up to a judge or the president.

In this country, journalists do their job the way they see fit.
What he is describing is Cuba. What he is describing is a communist country. The government says you can’t be here because I say you can’t be here. And it’s infuriating to me that a prosecutor would try to get up here and try to convince you that just because a police officer says something, that he has to bow his head and walk away. That is a disgrace to the Constitution of this country.”

Updated 11-9-12
As a photojournalist I’ve been threatened with arrest on numerous occasions both domestic and foreign. Fortunately, I've been lucky. I’ve known when to back off and when to file a complaint. I have never been arrested in over three decades doing my job.

Miller has been arrested three times in five years. It happens when he is on assignment covering a news event but the way I see it his real work begins after the arrest as he blogs about it.

That’s what bothers me about all this. Why should the police embroil themselves into arresting a freelance photographer? I’m sure they have their motives but the perceived lack of knowledge many police officers in the country have on civil rights are failing to protect our tax dollars. Money wasted by unlawful arrests of citizens and journalists and the judicial process that follows, both criminal and civil.

For more on Carlos Miller and this case go to:

On a coincidental side note: The judge in the case, Miami-Dade County Judge Ed Newman and bailiff Tony Nathan are both former Miami Dolphin teammates.

The Bello Family Relief Effort

Getty photographer Al Bello’s family home has suffered extensive hurricane damage. Not once but twice, last year during Hurricane Irene and now Hurricane Sandy’s onslaught in Merrick, NY.

The storm surge from Hurricane Sandy, the largest Atlantic hurricane on record, destroyed the main floor of their home. Fearing for their lives the Bello family retreated from the rising water to the second floor and watched six-foot plus waves rolling down the street just outside their window.

Photographer Donald Miralle spoke with Al Bello this afternoon and says Al’s in great spirits as he guts the downstairs to it’s timbers... again. Bello says he is humbled by the support he has received so far.

Miralle and his wife Lauren started The Bello Family Relief Effort on facebook Monday, November 5th.

By Donald Miralle 

One of our close friends Al Bello and his family, recently survived Hurricane Sandy. Their house cannot say the same. They live in Merrick, NY which is located on Long Island. Last year, their home sustained catastrophic damage from Hurricane Irene. Just in the past couple of months, they completed the rebuild of their home from that storm only to have this larger storm come through and destroy the entire first floor again. As of 11/5/12, Al and his family are still without heat or electricity.

For those of you who don’t know Al he is a world-class photographer for Getty Images, and a selfless person who is always there to help out others. He is married to one of the sweetest human beings, Debbie, and they have two beautiful kids Nicole and Daniel. They have faced great adversity in the past couple of years, but you will never hear Al complain about it. Ever.

They face another long road of dealing with insurance, FEMA, contractors, temporary relocation, etc. When I asked Al last week “What can we do to help you guys?”, he replied “Can you build me a house?” Our hearts are breaking for them and we want to help. We can’t build a house but we can help to raise money for their family to help offset some of the financial burden from this repeat tragedy.

We have set up a benevolent fund for the Bello family at Comercia Bank. Donations can be made the following ways:

1. Send via paypal account
If you opt to donate via Al's paypal account (, Dan Krouse had the following helpful tip: "if you select "personal" and "payment owed" when you send payment, it doesn't take a cut." Thank you, Dan!

2. Wiring funds (routing # 121137522 and account #1894689049)

Comerica Bank - MC 4583
1000 Aviara Parkway, Ste. 104
Carlsbad, CA 92011

3. Making a deposit at any Comerica branch to account #1894689049 (Account name: The Bello Family Relief Fund)

4. Mailing a check to us made out to The Bello Family Relief Fund.
C/o Lauren Miralle
Farmers Insurance
5751 Palmer Way Ste. H1
Carlsbad, CA 92010

100% of the funds donated will go directly to the Bellos. We have set up a facebook page for this at and please feel free to pass it along to anyone who you think can help. I know there are so many people who need our help in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and thank you for taking the time to care for this incredible family!!!

Here is an account from hockey photographer Bruce Bennett 
who recently visited the Bello home.

By Bruce Bennett

While doing Hurricane coverage, I made it a point of stopping by Al’s home. The first floor of his home was devastated with water mixed with sewage reaching up about 4’ high. They had braced for an Irene style foot of so, and struggled against the rapidly rising tide to move more possessions up to the second floor where they eventually relocated as they had to abandon the main floor for fear of losing their lives.

Al’s harrowing story of survival from the second floor of their home - flicking a flash light to multiple neighbors across the street in the same situation to signal that they were safe, and his account of seeing waves of 6 foot and higher rolling down his street, left me as speechless and he and his family were as they watched the power and force of the water below them.

The view of his couches, personal possessions and plasma TV on his front lawn for garbage collection didn’t really tell the whole story, but it was a gut wrenching site to say the least.

And yet when I stopped by, Debbie and Al, armed with elbow long gloves went about the job of clearing and cleaning their home. Al, being Al, would NOT permit his children to assist in the cleanup and sent them to a relatives’ home. He said that he never wanted his children to remember this horrible scene that would be permanently etched with memories of the stench of sea water mixed with sewage and the site of throwing out their personal treasured possessions. What they experienced already the night of the day and night of the storm was horrific enough. 

There is no more decent human being than Al, no one more accommodating, more talented or more humble. Please help if you can. From someone who saw the despair and anguish on his face first hand, this is the time to thank Al for all he has done for all us.

Then there is this from photographer Alexis Cuarezma 

You can now register for this Sunday's Workshop for only $100 and also help out a great cause. The proceeds from this workshop will go to directly to The Bello Family Relief Effort and help a great friend & mentor of mine & his family. Al Bello was one of the 1st people who genuinely and selflessly helped me out with my photography career. Because of him, I found out about Eddie Adams Workshop and applied, because of him, I went to NY, got assignments from the NY TIMES, LA TIMES and also met more amazing people who have helped me in my career.

At the very least, please share this flier with any photographers who are interested in learning about portraiture, lighting & post processing. The workshop takes place this Sunday, Nov. 11th in the San Francisco Bay Area. 
You can register here: Embrace Your Visual Soul