Governor Andrew Cuomo wants to end the free release of mugshots and other booking information, and the media is freaking out. Cuomo says it’s to preserve privacy and to squelch sleazy websites that extort money from people who want the pictures to disappear from the web. News outlets like the Times Union say it will lead to abuse and “secret arrests.”

It’s hard to take newspapers and TV stations seriously on this since they exploit mugshots just as shamelessly as the websites Cuomo is fighting.

Today it’s worse than ever. Local TV and newspapers don’t just use the mugshots as part of the regular news coverage, but they plaster them all over social media. That’s when the fun begins, as people get to leave comments about the depraved/evil/corrupt/contemptible/ugly person in the photo. It’s open season, and it doesn’t matter that the person has only been accused, they are dragged through today’s town square — the internet — and locked in the pillory.

In Canada and the UK, mugshots are not released unless there’s a compelling reason to do so, like in a matter of public safety. Some countries go even further, like Ireland, where it’s flat out illegal to release the identity of someone accused of a sex crime. You may not like that, but it protects the rights of someone who may be wrongly accused.

Yeah, so tell me again how this is about transparency and the public’s right to know. Could it also be about selling papers, boosting ratings, tallying clicks, and counting shares and likes? Either way, the media is complaining loudly — so loudly that I can barely hear the cha-ching of their cash registers.

4 thoughts on “Mugged

  1. Who was it that said after being exonerated “where do I go to get my reputation back?” I know it wasn’t Richard Jewell but it got his situation

  2. Yep, I’ve been there. Name in the papers and local radio for reckless endangerment…it was reported/described as I got into a bar fight in the parking lot, deliberately backing my car into the victim and pinning him against another car! Sounds pretty terrible right!? Long story, but I was the designated driver for my two Marine buddies who were home on leave. They got drunk and had words with another drunk, who was a local and happened to be friends with the bouncer (I’ll get back to that). I drag my moron friends into the car and try to get the hell out of there. The instigator-drunk dude is behind my car, banging on my trunk, refusing to move. Half the bar is now out in the parking lot, egging him on. I slowly back up with plenty of room between me and the car behind me. I see I’m within in a foot or two from the car and put in forward. This was a manual transmission car, so there was a slight roll back before going forward. The guy yells I broke his legs and he proceeds to punch out the back windshield. He claimed he was pinned but before I could move forward, he’s already busting through my driver’s side window. I managed to jump over my buddy and out the passenger side. Funny thing was he was walking just fine towards me, while at the same time repeatedly saying I broke his legs. Luckily, I escaped with only a few scratches from the glass and the cops came before he could literally bash my head in.
    Now I’m not saying my friends were angels. They were definitely running their mouths off, but the local drunk was clearly the aggressor psycho. I felt confident as the sober, designated driver (and squeaky clean record) that the police will arrest this guy, so I follow the police back to the station to make a statement. THIS IS WHERE I SHOULD HAVE ASKED FOR A LAWYER.
    Apparently, the bouncer and the other bar patrons gave statements that I did indeed pin this idiot to the car and he was only defending himself when he busted out the two windows. He was local, while my friends were considered outsiders. So my statement and my buddies version of events didn’t align with his friends/witnesses. Turned out the guy didn’t even get charged! And this is after the cops told me this was the second time he’s punched out car windows at the same bar! Before I knew it, the chief of police is telling me that they need to charge me with misdemeanor reckless endangerment, when the other “good” cop was trying for unsafe backing, which made complete sense and only would’ve been a traffic citation. Nope, I got the mugshot, fingerprints, and released on my own recognizance.
    There’s more shady details, but the humiliation from that event changed the whole direction of my life (I wanted to go into law enforcement at the time).
    Anyway, I got a lawyer and pleaded not guilty. When I asked my lawyer why I even got charged, he says the cops have a saying, “Arrest them all and let the courts sort it out.” You know how law enforcement loves their crime-fighting stats! In the end, the charges were dismissed, but the embarrassment still lingered. I literally had make several requests to the radio and newspapers to publish my dismissal, i.e. vindication. And they acted like they never heard of anyone making such a request.
    Sorry for the long rant, but I was falsely arrested on a bogus charge and understand firsthand the stigma of being arrested and getting it plastered all over the local media. In my opinion, they should only print the convictions and dismissals… For the first time in awhile, I agree with Cuomo on this one.

    1. Bullshit. What’s messed up about stories like this is that in a small city — like Albany, for example — nonsense like that can get on the news at all. In a bigger town, nobody would ever know anything about it. As for your request, I don’t remember ever seeing a story about charges being dropped in a DWI, misdemeanor, or other relatively routine matter. It doesn’t sell papers — and that’s what’s at the heart of this. Newspaper editors and TV news directors go on endlessly about the sanctity of journalism, but it’s just a business, like any other.

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