Illegal Photography in Nassau County? Morally Wrong vs. Legally Wrong

A Richard Stacel, a 44 year old Massapequa man was arrested Thursday night for taking “unauthorized” pictures of an 8 year old girl in an ice cream parlor. I’ve heard at least a  dozen different news reports on this story, including the broadcast of the Nassau County Police press conference, and I’m still waiting for someone to state what this guy did to justify an arrest. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure the guy had ill intentions, and at least one news agency reported that he has a prior conviction. But the law is clear. As creepy as it is, it is perfectly legal to photograph anyone, including children, while they are out in public.

Newsday first described the photos he took as “unauthorized”. They have now updated that description to “lewd” photos without giving any justification of what they thought qualified as lewd, much less what new piece of information they learned since the press conference to justify the update (if someone knows, please link to the source in the comments). Nothing in the police press conference indicated Richard Stacel was doing anything other than secretly taking pictures of an 8 year old girl from a distance with his cell phone. Nassau County Police described that Stacel was caught taking pictures “in a manner that was inappropriate”. Not in a manner that was illegal.

Now, of course what Richard Stacel did was clearly morally wrong, to say the least. And if someone was taking secret photos of my children, I would absolutely confront them, and it would not be pretty. I would probably wind up getting arrested myself. But that wouldn’t change the fact that there is no law against what this guy did. Unless he was essentially violating someone’s privacy (for example, by secretly taking pictures up someone’s skirt, or hiding a camera in the bathroom), he had a legal, and in fact, a constitutional right to do what he did. Now he will be rewarded for his actions by filing a 1983 claim against Nassau County once the charges against him are dismissed, and this guy will be back on the street with a new very expensive camera and a telephoto lens courtesy of Nassau County taxpayers.

Most people would say good. I’m glad he got arrested. In fact, he deserves much worse. But what happens when we start arresting people for morally bankrupt behavior? Where should the line be drawn? What will the consequences be? Leave a comment below.


  1. Tionico says

    SCOTUS,Lawrence vs Texas, declared the “Texas Sodomy Law” unocnstitutional in part because that law, despite the clear FACT it was voted into law by a large majority of the People of Texas, and did so in par because it was based on “morality”, and “morality” is not a valid basis for civil law.

    Seems if the People of Texas could not determine what conduct could be persued within their borders because they considered certain conduct “immoral”, then Nassau COunty, once more, has an interesting fight on their hands.

    We are, last I checked, a nation of LAWS, not preferences, traditions, opinions, feelings….. until Nassau County can determine which law, duly passed and governing in that specific venue, they cannot lay charges against this man. UNlawful arrest should be the least of their worries. Seems Nassau COunty have a history of such behaviour.

  2. Saphirebluez says

    I think thats kind of a difficult call without all the information. Many people do what is known as street photography, random shots of people on the street. Personally i think its a bit dangerous but thats me.

  3. Luke says

    The news site that reported previous convictions should also be concerned about Libel, because there were no previous convictions for anything. The officer also did not properly identify himself and sought to steal the phone, thus causing himself to operate outside of law, IE out-law.

  4. Rob says

    “Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure the guy had ill intentions,” You are assume way too much. What has not come out is that he was texting his own daughter and waiting for a reply, that is why his phone was even out. Cell phone records will prove this to be true. The media has so much wrong about this story it’s not even funny!

      • Rob says

        Yes it will. I’ve also found out that the cop never showed proper ID, attempted to take the phone, which means the cop doesn’t even know that it’s legal to take pics in a public place, tried to steal his phone, which can only be done if it’s a matter of national security and never had a warrant to do so. They also searched the car without consent, lied about it, then admitted it was searched and are still holding it without a cause further violating his rights, along with threats and intimidation by police.

        • says

          I’m sure Mr. Stacel hired an excellent attorney to help expedite the dismissal of the charges, and I’m sure that attorney is aware of the impact of everything he does, says, and pleads on any future civil actions. Certainly an interesting case to watch.

          • Rob says

            I’m sure he would if he had the money. He lost his well paying networking job because of the actions of this so called “cop”, who kept trying to illegally steal his phone and caused this entire incident based on his false assumption and wrong conclusions. The ACLU is interested in the case.

            • says

              The ACLU, as well as most 1983 lawyers would probably be willing to take his civil case on a contingency, and represent him in the criminal matter pro bono since they are directly related. I’m sure he’ll find the right lawyer soon. He definitely should not try to handle this matter on his own, as I’m sure the judge informed him. Tell him good luck.

  5. Michael R says

    Thank God someone has the guts to stand up for the U.S. Constitution no matter what this guys intent was, we are a nation of laws, this is not the middle east where nations are governed by emotion.

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