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Attorney asks federal court for rehearing in Columbia police filming suit

ST. LOUIS, Mo. - A Columbia attorney is asking a federal court to reconsider its decision in a lawsuit over filming the police.

Stephen Wyse filed the motion Wednesday for the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals to rehear Matt Akins' case against the city of Columbia, Boone County, prosecutors and police officers. The court denied Akins' appeal in July of a lower court decision to dismiss the case.

Akins sued over alleged harassment by the Columbia Police Department due to his work with Citizens for Justice, a group monitoring police conduct and practices. The lawsuit claimed officers arrested him several times in retaliation for his work, with many of the cases dropped by prosecutors. Akins also claims officers unlawfully stopped him from filming them.

Judge Nanette Laughrey ruled that officers had probable cause each time to arrest Akins, and that "he has no constitutional right to videotape any public proceeding he wishes to."

Wyse took issue with Laughrey's decision to stay on the case, despite his request she recuse herself. Laughrey's husband, Chris Kelly, was the head of a city task force on infrastructure, which could have skewed her decisions in a case against the city, Wyse claimed. While federal law does call for a judge's recusal, the appeals court said nothing in Akins' case rose to the level of bias or prejudice against his case.

Wyse wrote that the court should have done a strict review of Akins' case before deciding whether or not to recuse Laughrey. He also questioned the appeals court upholding Laughrey's position on the First Amendment not protecting Akins' ability to record the police.

“The First Amendment is a core American value," Wyse said in a news release. "The right to free speech and a free press are central to our liberty and our ability to hold our government accountable. This holding of the 8th Circuit undermines the basic rights of Missourians and the citizens of the six other 8th Circuit states and undermines the First Amendment rights for all Americans."

City attorney Nancy Thompson told ABC 17 News that the city does not comment on pending lawsuits.


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