A Maryland couple has accused police officers of tampering with evidence of their alleged unlawful arrest last year.
Juley Harris (popularly known as local artist DC Prophitt) and his girlfriend Shanita Simms pulled into a gas station in December 2014 and were later approached by a Charles County police officer, PINAC (Photography Isn’t A Crime) reports.
The officer accused Simms of breastfeeding her one-month-old daughter in the front seat of the car. The couple told the police officer Simms had her child’s blanket over her shoulder, but the baby was safely in a car seat with a bottle.
The officer wrote Harris a ticket for having the child unrestrained in the front seat, an act the couple insists didn’t occur. In the footage above, the couple can be seen arguing with another officer who arrived shortly after the incident unfolded.
If, in fact, Simms was breastfeeding her daughter, it isn’t an illegal act under Maryland law.
After a supervisor was called in, Harris became irate when the unidentified officer demanded Simms get back into the vehicle. Harris was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and Simms’ phone was taken in as evidence. The couple says after a grueling ten months of fighting for the phone back, the footage they recorded was given to a public defender on Monday–the day before Harris’ trial.
The couple claims the footage does not contain missing scenes that include the officer verbally assaulting Simms, and reaching into the car to grab her phone.
“I was still videotaping him and he told me to give him my phone because it was his evidence,” Simms said. “I sat in the car and started crying and he put all his weight on me. I was leaning over on the drivers seat, trying to keep my phone away from him but he took it.” And once he seized her phone, a Samsung, he demanded her passcode, but she refused to give it to him. “He said, ‘we have ways to get into it.’”
On Tuesday, Harris was convicted of disorderly conduct, failure to obey a lawful order, and driving with an unrestrained child in the front seat. Harris was given a suspended sentence of 120 days in jail with two years probation and community service. The couple says they tried to get footage from the gas station and dash cameras from the three police cars on the scene, but were told the cars’ cameras weren’t working. They were also told they would need a court order to get footage from the gas station.
Simms reportedly hasn’t gotten back her phone, but the footage the couple received has been posted to various social media outlets.
Currently, Harris is battling to appeal his conviction and has asked the public for help through a GoFundMe page.
The Charles County Sheriff’s Office hasn’t commented on the incident.