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Thursday, November 8, 2007 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Man arrested for photographing police activity receives settlement

Seattle Times staff reporter

An amateur photographer who was taken into custody last year after shooting pictures of two Seattle police officers while they were making an arrest on a public street received an $8,000 settlement this week, the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington said this morning.

Bogdan Mohora, 26, was walking on Pike Street near Second Avenue on Nov. 2 when he happened upon an arrest of a man by Seattle police.

During a news conference this morning, Mohora said he snapped a few shots of the arrest from a distance of more than 10 feet and was walking away when he was approached by a friend of the man being arrested. The friend asked Mohora about obtaining copies of the photos.

Two officers, James Pitts and David Toner, then told Mohora to hand over his camera, according to ACLU staff attorney Aaron Caplan, who handled the case. Mohora said that when he asked what he had done wrong, officers arrested him, handcuffed him and took his camera, wallet and satchel. They took him to a holding cell at the Seattle Police Department's West Precinct, Mohora said.

When he was released about an hour later, he said he was told that he could be charged with disturbing the peace, provoking a riot or endangering a police officer.

Mohora was never charged with a crime and, in violation of department policy, police did not write up an incident report on the arrest, according to ACLU legal director Sarah Dunne.

"Being arrested for simply being a witness to police activity was frightening and humiliating," Mohora wrote in a claim he later filed against the city. "It bothers me to think that police can abuse their authority by arresting innocent witnesses and then not even make standard police reports to document what happened."

After the ACLU intervened on Mohora's behalf, the city agreed to pay $8,000 to Mohora.

The ACLU said police investigated the officers' actions, found they were inappropriate and disciplined the officers. However, Seattle police this morning did not have a comment on the settlement.

Caplan said the public has a right to observe and document police activity that occurs in a public location.

Christine Clarridge: 206-464-8983 or cclarridge@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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