Austin, Texas, October 21, 2014 – Peaceful Streets Project founder and activist Antonio Buehler was found not guilty of failing to comply with an order from a police officer on Wednesday. The misdemeanor charges stem from an incident on New Year’s Day 2012 where Buehler witnessed Austin Police officers ripping Norma Pizana from her friend’s vehicle. Buehler stopped to record the incident and was harassed and eventually arrested for resisting arrest and allegedly spitting in the face of APD Officer Patrick Oborski. Although a Travis County Grand Jury later dropped those charges he was indicted on a Class C Misdemeanor charge of Failure to Obey the Order of an Officer.
The failure to comply charges come from allegations that Buehler refused to put his hands behind his back when ordered by Oborski. The officer testified in court that Buehler was “verbally aggressive” and claimed he saw Buehler as a threat. Buehler’s attorney, Millie Thompson, told the jury that the officers were, in fact, the aggressors.
Norma Pizana testified about her experience at the hands of APD, stating that she had “never been treated like that by a male.” Another eyewitness said he “saw one of the officers poke antonio in the chest like he wanted to pick a fight.” The incident was caught on camera as well. Throughout the trial Officer Oborski andAPD cadet instructor, Officer Carillo seemed to lack knowledge of the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The prosecutor defended Oborski, stating, “the officer is not a Constitutional scholar and shouldn’t have to know the details of the Constitution.”
Despite the charges for the alleged spitting being dropped and all but debunked, Officer Oborski continued to repeat the claim. Of the four videos show in court none of them show Oborski wiping off the alleged spit from his face. Oborski also testified that his uniform had been tested for DNA evidence of Buehler’s spit, yet no traces were found.
In a move that shocked many, former (as of 10/30/14) – Austin police Officer Jermaine Hopkins testified in defense of Buehler. Hopkin’s countered Oborski’s statements, telling the jury that verbal expression alone is not interference or reasonable suspicion to detain someone. Hopkins also told the court that he was notified by his supervisor that by participating in the case he would be out of a job after October 30th.
On the third morning a juror entered the courtroom and handed the judge a letter detailing the reasons they would not be able to reach a verdict. The juror said an unnamed group would cause harm with physical violence if the juror continued. He claimed to be experiencing paranoia, anxiety, and psychosis. This almost caused a mistrial but the defense agreed to trial by a five person jury rather than six.
Typically misdemeanor trials last a few hours. This one involved 25 hours of proceedings over 5 days. By the end of it the five person jury found Antonio Buehler not guilty of failing to obey an order from a police officer.
Following the New Year’s Day incident which lead to Antonio Buehler’s arrest and assault, the Peaceful Streets Project was launched. Buehler says the PSP is dedicated to holding police accountable by filming police and holding know your rights training sessions. The group has spawned a number of chapters around the world. Perhaps when Officer Oborski told Buehler “You fucked with the wrong cop and now you’re gonna fucking pay” he was unaware what that chain of events would create. However, in the end it seems Oborski and the APD may have messed with the wrong activist.