NewsBriefs BUTTONS

TV Tag-Alongs on Raids Violate Fourth Amendment


September-October 1994

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed a U.S. District judge's ruling that a Secret Service agent violated a Brooklyn woman's fourth amendment rights when he allowed a camera crew from the CBS program "Street Stories" to videotape her and her son during a raid (Ayeni, et al. v. Mottola, CA2, No. 94-60, Newman, J., Sept. 12, 1994; "Bringing T.V. Crew on Raid Violates Fourth Amendment," BNA Criminal Practice Manual, vol. 8, no. 20 (Sept. 28, 1994): p. 456-7; Ronald Sullivan, "Television Camera in Secret Service Raid is Ruled Unconstitutional," New York Times, Sept. 13, 1994, p. B3). "A private home is not a sound stage for law enforcement theatricals," the court said.

Tawa Ayeni, who had also sued CBS and settled for an undisclosed amount in that case, claimed that she had suffered emotional distress as a result of the taping even though CBS never aired the footage. The March 1992 search was in connection with a credit card fraud case against Ayeni's husband.

CBS argued that the search warrant for the Ayeni home gave officers immunity from prosecution and thus gave the journalists the same immunity. However, U.S. District Judge Jack Weinstein said that "CBS had no greater right than that of a thief to be in the home" (Ayeni v. CBS, Inc., 848 F.Supp. at 368, EDNY, 1994). The judge said that James Mottola, the agent who allowed the camera crew on the raid, acted as if he were a "rogue policeman using his official position to break into a home in order to steal objects for his own profit or that of another" (848 F.Supp. at 368).