Silverthorne pays $9,500 settlement to ‘First Amendment auditor’ following incident at post office
SILVERTHORNE — The town of Silverthorne agreed to pay a settlement of $9,500 after police asked a man filming inside the Silverthorne Post Office to leave.
On Feb. 24, a YouTube channel called Amagansett Press posted a 51-minute edited video of a man and his son entering the post office on a “First Amendment audit,” to see if “these folks honor and respect our right to take video and photographs in public and from publicly accessible places.”
In the video, a man named Jason Gutterman walked inside and began filming P.O. boxes and bulletin boards before making his way into the main office. A post office employee and several customers asked the man to stop filming and leave. When he refused, officers with the Silverthorne Police Department arrived to handle the situation, leading to a lengthy and somewhat contentious conversation.
Gutterman pointed to the post office’s Poster 7, which outlines rules governing conduct on Postal Service property.
In regards to photography, the poster reads “photographs for news purposes may be taken in entrances, lobbies, foyers, corridors, or auditoriums when used for public meetings except where prohibited by official signs or Security Force personnel or other authorized personnel or a federal court order or rule. Other photographs may be taken only with the permission of the local Postmaster or installation head.”
When asked directly about the incident, a representative with the U.S. Postal Service referred back to the Poster 7.
Gutterman said the video was for news purposes. His YouTube channel, which boasts almost 200,000 subscribers, posted its first video in December 2018. The channel has since posted about 240 more, many showing interactions with law enforcement and other public officials.
In the video, Gutterman and the police talked inside for several minutes, going back and forth about whether he was allowed to film, and if police had the right to make him leave. They eventually moved outside, where the conversation continued for a while before officers left the scene.
Silverthorne Police Chief John Minor said officers asked him to leave at the request of the postmaster, who officers were in contact with via telephone on scene.
“At the request of the Postal Service employees and based on the best information available to them at the time, the Silverthorne police officers asked the videographer to leave the premises,” said Silverthorne Police Chief John Minor in a statement.
Attempts to interview Gutterman for this story were unsuccessful.
At the end of the video Gutterman states his intention to take legal action against the police department, and Minor said lawyers from both sides met soon after to work out the $9,500 settlement. The town said in a statement that the agreement wasn’t an admission of liability or wrongdoing, and the police department stood by its staff and officers.
Minor called it an economic settlement, noting that fighting a lawsuit in federal court would likely be much more costly. Still, Minor said his department might have handled the situation differently if given another chance.
“We were following postmaster directions, Poster 7 and we believe the law as we knew it,” Minor said. “Our attorney affirmed the fact that we acted appropriately. But given the circumstances we’d do it differently.
“Let me put it this way, we have better things to do with our time.”
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