Walter Mencken 11 a.m., May 24
Cameraman Found Guilty of Obstructing Officer
After a two-day misdemeanor trial, a jury found James Charles Playford, 48, guilty of one count of obstructing a peace officer. The jury deliberated about an hour before their verdict, announced the afternoon of May 17.
Playford, who calls himself “J.C.,” took the witness stand in his own defense. He admitted that he refused to identify himself to the police officer. “I don’t have to give him my name,” he told the jury.
Playford said he was outside a taped-off area that supposedly contained a bomb threat near congressman Darrell Issa’s offices in Vista, on December 1 2011. The freelance videographer had his cell phone open in one hand, which he was dialing, and a small video camera in the other hand when a sheriff’s deputy approached and asked him his name.
Although the cameraman obediently stopped moving forward, he refused to tell the officer his name nor would he say if he was on probation or parole for any offense. Playford was, in fact, on probation: in 2009 a judge found him guilty of reckless driving because he tried to evade officers at a barricade near a wildfire perimeter in 2008 — that judge put Playford on 3 years probation.
Playford’s own video recording of his confrontation last December with deputy Brendan Cook was used against him at his trial Wednesday and Thursday of this week.
Deputy Cook testified, and he pointed out to the jury that “Mister Playford is larger than me.” The cameraman described himself as 6 foot 3 inches and 225 pounds. The deputy told the jury that he wanted the large cameraman lowered, so “I had to guide him down” to the curb. Then the ratcheting of handcuffs could be heard on the video that was played for the jury. Playford’s angry voice could also be heard: “You’ve got no reason to touch me!” and “Take your hands off me!” And he cursed the officer repeatedly.
“I thought a fight was imminent,” the officer told the jury, and he called for other officers. But there was no fight, and Playford was put into the back of a patrol car.
It appeared that Playford did not identify himself as a possible news-gatherer, “I work in the media,” until after he was restrained. “Sir, you have no right to hold me, I’m doing my [expletive] job!”
The defendant told the jury he is a “freelancer” and “I’m not employed by any company.”
Immediately after the verdict, judge Richard Mills sentenced Playford to one day in jail with credit for one day already served. Probation was terminated for the prior offense, and he was ordered to pay $300 in attorney and court fees.
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