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Judge denies city’s request to charge Huntsville man for body camera evidence

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - A judge denied a motion by the City of Huntsville to order a man who disrupted an immigration rights rally in June 2018 to pay for access to body camera evidence.

Shane Ryan Sealy, 36, pleaded guilty Nov. 14 to possession of a firearm at or near a public demonstration, a week before he was set to go to trial his attorney Joshua Graff told WHNT News 19. Police described Sealy as an agitator who went to a rally in Big Spring Park to disrupt a protest against the Trump administration's immigration policy. He was convicted in city court and appealed but after his guilty plea two weeks ago, Sealy was sentenced to a year's probation and a $500 fine.

The other issue that arose in his case was the City of Huntsville's practice of charging defendants for body camera evidence.

Sealy's lawyer had complained, arguing the practice violated Alabama's rules of criminal procedure. The judge ordered the videos turned over to the defense, but he also said he reserved the right to charge Sealy a fee if he was found guilty or pleaded guilty.

The judge didn't include a fee in his sentencing order, but prosecutors from the City of Huntsville still wanted to collect.

They asked the court Friday to impose a fee and spelled out the reasoning in a court filing that reads in part:

"The cost for downloading an officer’s video from the server onto the desktop, and then transferring the video from the desktop and onto a disk, has been determined by the Huntsville Police Department Records Division and is based upon the required time, manpower, and supplies it takes to produce the final disk. The cost of transferring the arresting officer’s vehicle dash camera video and/or body camera video to a disk is currently $50.00 per video. The cost of transferring any additional officer’s body camera video and/or vehicle dash camera video to a disk is $75.00 per copy. The total amount due based on the requests for video in the above-cited case is $625.00."

Madison County Circuit Judge Chris Comer addressed the issue Monday and denied the request to order Sealy to pay the $625 for body cam videos.

It's not clear if his ruling will change the city's practice of charging for body cam evidence or lead other defendants to challenge the policy.

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