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.