Guest Columnist

It's no crime to defy 'kangaroo' camera court

With Cedar Rapids mayor Ron Corbett (right) in attendance, WHO radio personality Simon Conway (second from right) uses a smartphone app to live stream his administrative hearing to contest a traffic camera ticket he received at the Cedar Rapids Police Department in southwest Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
With Cedar Rapids mayor Ron Corbett (right) in attendance, WHO radio personality Simon Conway (second from right) uses a smartphone app to live stream his administrative hearing to contest a traffic camera ticket he received at the Cedar Rapids Police Department in southwest Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

The reasons to ban traffic enforcement cameras are too numerous for one small piece in The Gazette, so I’m just going to stick with a few.

In one of the ‘pro-camera’ pieces last Sunday, Dick Trotter named me and said he and his friends couldn’t believe I had refused to pay my fine for breaking the law.

There are so many things wrong with this suggestion. Let’s start with the ‘breaking the law’ part. The City of Cedar Rapids and their foreign camera company buddies are not accusing, and never have accused, me of breaking the law.

That would have been a criminal moving violation which, if prosecuted, would have allowed me to advance constitutionally-based defenses (e.g., the right to face and cross-examine my accuser, among others) and, if found guilty, would have resulted in points on my driver’s license and a report to my insurance company which no doubt would have raised my rates.

No one is ever accused of speeding under the automated traffic enforcement ordinance. I was not accused of speeding. As the owner of a vehicle which the camera said was speeding, I received a citation. The city has no evidence and has offered no evidence that I was behind the wheel at the time.

I challenged my citation and wow! First my “trial” was held inside the police station — outside the purview of the public, as would happen in a criminal prosecution. My ‘prosecutor’ was an armed and in uniform police officer. I don’t get intimidated, but I can imagine many people who would have been intimidated by this circumstance.

Next up was the hearing officer. In responding to legal arguments presented by my attorney, James Larew, she stated that she didn’t consider matters of law in passing judgment. No matters of law considered in a legal proceeding? How did we come to that?

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The only evidence about the accuracy of the cameras was indeed presented by the “prosecutor,” which evidence supported my contention that the cameras were inaccurate.

I described the proceeding as a kangaroo court at the time and I have not changed my mind. I have been denied due process in a system designed to benefit the camera company — who by the way, was the organization that actually wrote the order of “liable.” I’m not sure what United States or Iowa law or even Cedar Rapids ordinance, gives a foreign for-profit corporation the power to write such orders against American citizens, but that is what happened.

Now we come to the class action law suit — an action I support but whose legal resolution I will leave to our courts to decide. All I will say is that I could not believe the “debt collection” threat when it arrived just before Christmas and so I called my attorney and asked him to assist me — and other similarly situated vehicle owners — in my defense. I trust that Dick Trotter, if feeling that any of his fundamental rights had been violated, would do the same thing.

• Simon Conway is a radio host heard afternoons on News Radio 1040 WHO and AM 600 WMT

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