Feb 072011

If someone spends around $20,000 over $34,000 defending himself against baseless allegations made against him by people who were paid for their efforts, and in the end, he has nothing more than he started with, has he won?  I’ve recently received a bit of congratulations for “winning” in court.  While I’m appreciative of the sentiment, I typically tell people that I haven’t won; I’ve simply stopped my losses.

On November 15, 2009, on my way home from representing Cannabis Defense Coalition at Drug Policy Alliance‘s biennial International Drug Policy Reform Conference in Albuquerque, I checked in for my flight on the Web, went to the airport, and presented my boarding pass to the airport security guards who stopped me from reaching the gate from which my flight was to depart.  About five minutes later, I was under arrest and headed for jail.  It’s unclear just why I was arrested (thought it seems to have stemmed from my inability to present documentation of my identity to U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) airport staff and from me recording my interaction with public employees in a public place), but it’s clear that I didn’t do anything wrong.  On January 21, 2011, a six-woman jury acquitted me of the four misdemeanor offenses with which I was charged after about an hour of deliberation.

The best place to go for information about my trial is the State of New Mexico v. Phillip Mocek FAQ created and maintained by the Identity Project.  There, one can find photos and audio from the trial, analysis of the verdict, and information about related issues.  The best evidence of what happened is the video of my arrest that I recorded, then recovered after it was deleted while the camera was in police custody.  I’d almost certainly have been convicted were it not for this video, which contradicts many of the claims made by the states’ witnesses.  I added subtitles and posted it on the Web, where it has been viewed nearly 100,000 times in less than three weeks.

There’s much more to this story, and sifting through 1800 posts in a related discussion on FlyerTalk Forums is an inconvenient way to find it all, so I’ll post more here soon.

I’m paying for my criminal defense out of pocket.  Over 50 people have contributed to my legal defense fund, with most donations ranging from $10 to $100.  I don’t have the final bill, and my lawyers (Molly Schmidt-Nowara and Nancy Hollander, with whom I was very pleased) aren’t going to charge me for all the work they did, but I expect to owe another $15,000 or so beyond what others have chipped in.  [UPDATE: The total legal bill, received in early February, came to $34,000.] If you’d like to contribute to this project — that of me calmly and respectfully refusing to surrender my rights, then aiming for a jury instead of a plea bargain — you can do so online via Paypal or by mailing cash, check, or money order to:

Phil Mocek legal defense
Cannabis Defense Coalition (CDC)
PO Box 45622
Seattle, WA 98145

CDC is a Washington State 501(c)(3) non-profit (see IRS determination letter), so contributions made through them are tax-deductable, and your employer may provide matching funds. All contributions made through them will go to my defense fund.

Alternatively, contributions can be mailed directly to my lawyers’ office (payable to “Freedman Boyd et al.” You can indicate “Phil Mocek defense fund” in the memo field) at:

Phil Mocek legal defense
Freedman Boyd Hollander Goldberg Ives & Duncan PA
20 First Plaza Ctr NW Ste 700
Albuquerque, NM 87102-5802

  16 Responses to “I fought the law and the law lost, but I’m out $34,000”

  1. No doubt about it – your victory was more of a blowout. Six people returned your acquittal in one hour. Your video provides irrefutable evidence that people who many blindly trust (the police and TSA) are capable of lying and being ignorant of their responsibilities. Thanks to your efforts, this issue has increased visibility across the US and overseas. Victories of this nature are the product of great sacrifice. Don’t let the negative aspects of your sacrifice outweigh the overwhelming success you’ve achieved.

  2. Your courage should not end up costing you your savings. I hope this story will spread and more people will donate. You’re a true hero in my book for having the courage of your convictions and helping remind people of the basics which the country was founded on. The rush to appease the powers that be by 99% of the public since 9/11 is frightening. Seeing somebody stand up to the budding tyranny is inspiring.

  3. In the past few years I have defend my self in Court, I have done this by reading and understanding the laws of my state, perusing find-law n such and talking with the local DA.

    If you had to do this again; would you consider defending your self? You were changed with four misdemeanors correct? Most states have levels of misdemeanors and depending on what level you were charged with I’m not sure I would self defend either. It truly sucks your out 20K when you were obeying the law, the problem was the TSA had no understanding of the law, you should ask the TSA for compensation for schooling them.

    Guilty until proven innocent.


  4. […] was likely going to be the best evidence of what happened (similar evidence is the primary reason I was found not guilty in Albuquerque a few months ago despite the lies of multiple Albuquerque Aviation Police Department officers), I shouted for […]

  5. Congrats on your “victory.” Is there any possibility to recover your expenses from the kidnappers? Are you suing for false arrest, official misconduct, assault, etc…

    I’m hoping you get eventual justice. Thank you doing what’s right, even at great personal risk and expense.

  6. Thank you for standing up for your rights, and having the presence of mind to record this incident, and for the perseverance to continue to fight all the way through the court process. I salute you.

  7. It takes a lot to defend yourself in such a ridiculous situation without losing your cool. What the TSA did disgusts me and the way they handled it was very unprofessional. I am glad that you stood your ground. Thanks for representing our rights!


  8. “ask the TSA for compensation for schooling them”?

    TSA lost the case. My understanding is that they, not you, are responsible for all court cost. And any competent lawyer would have rolled his or her fees into that, not back on you.

    The upshot is that TSA stole $34,000 from you, stole your rights, and don’t have to make a single change in their behavior. For you, a Pyrrhic victory at most.

    • Stole from you? That seems to be quite a stretch. What rights were violated exactly? You have the right not to fly. It is a privilege, not a right. Just like you have the privilege to drive, and if you are pulled over, even for an alleged violation you are asked to present your license. People like you would rather live in an anarchy state? People like you have made this country into a litigious society. You were bent on nailing some organization (TSA or police) before you ever made it to the airport. This theater was all yours. Hope you got a nice holiday greeting card for your efforts from the attorneys.

      • James, you’re mistaken. In the United States, air travel is a right. Please see the Identity Project’s, “Does an airline pilot have the right to refuse to let you fly?“.

        They write:

        As long as you’ve paid for a ticket and complied with all valid rules in the airline’s published tariff, you have a right to travel. That’s what it means for an airline to be licensed as a “common carrier”.

        Your right to travel is guaranteed by, in ascending order of precedence, Federal law, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and international human rights treaties:

        • Federal law: “A citizen of the United States has a public right of transit through the navigable airspace” (49 USC 40103). Note that the FAA (and the TSA, as part of the transfer of responsibilities when the DHS and TSA were created) is required to take this right into consideration in issuing regulations, giving orders, or otherwise exercising its authority: “The Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration shall consider the following matters:… (2) the public right of freedom of transit through the navigable airspace”  (49 USC 40101).
        • U.S. Constitution, Amendment 1: “Congress shall make no law … abridging … the right of the people peaceably to assemble.” Note that the right to assemble is not limited by the Constitution to assembly for any particular purpose. It includes the right to assemble with family, with friends, with strangers, or with anyone else, for any or no purpose.
        • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 12: “Everyone lawfully within the territory of a State shall, within that territory, have the right to liberty of movement.” Note that unlike the Federal law cited above, over which it takes precedence as a treaty ratified by the U.S., the human right to freedom of movement under the ICCPR is not limited to citizens.

        Can an airline deny or interfere with these rights?

        The simplistic answer is usually that a pilot and/or an airline has the “discretion” to deny boarding or even to kick you off the plane. Such action would be based, presumably, on 49 USC 44902(b): “Permissive Refusal. — Subject to regulations of the Under Secretary, an air carrier, intrastate air carrier, or foreign air carrier may refuse to transport a passenger or property the carrier decides is, or might be, inimical to safety,” and perhaps also on 14 CFR 121.533(d): “Each pilot in command of an aircraft is, during flight time, in command of the aircraft and crew and is responsible for the safety of the passengers, crewmembers, cargo, and airplane.”

  9. based on little actual info, ie just this web page and embedded video, I see a guy deliberately inspiring a dust-up with TSA. Not that there’s anything wrong with that–if, on principle, one is testing the law, especially for the benefit of others. But may I suggest that anyone else intending to “test the law”, without legal training or a lawyer present, might consider accruing a few dozen thousand bucks first.

    I was also astonished to learn, once upon a time, that one needed, essentially, driver’s license on order to fly on commercial airlines. Very strange — but expensive to fight.

    Mr M seems to have a litigable case here, for which any ambulance-chaser would line up to undertake. I suggest he accept one of their offers — because without more info than is presented here, it is very easy to conclude that this is just an attempt to solicit money from the gullible.

  10. […] Fund”.) Any funds remaining at the conclusion of the case (unlikely — Phil Mocek was left with a $34,000 debt after his acquittal on bogus charges brought at the instigation of the TSA) will be donated to the […]

  11. […] this case, Mr. Mocek is also seeking to recover more than $34,000 in legal expenses he incurred to defend himself against the false criminal […]

  12. You’re very courageous to take this process on and I commend you for standing up for all our rights. We’ll see if we can get you some more attention. It would be great if you visited some of the links posted about you on Reddit recently and commented on your experience. I think you’ll find some support and interested folks there.

    Reddit Am I Free to Go


  13. Even if you win, you still lose. Welcome to America.

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