Policy: Law

Florida police use red-light cameras to track man critical of divorce judge

By |
Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Crime,Florida,Ashe Schow,Surveillance,Privacy,Law,Law Enforcement

A St. Petersburg, Fla., man was tracked by police using the city's red light cameras to catch him placing bumper stickers around town -- including placing some on street signs.

Joe Mazzara, a 67-year-old businessman, placed bumper stickers around the city that said “Get Jack Helinger off the bench.com.” Mazzara was upset over the way Helinger handled his divorce case.

Now Mazzara is facing 12 misdemeanor counts of criminal mischief.

“The point is, don't mess with the judge,” Mazzara told the Tampa Bay Times. “Are we saying in this county we're no longer going to have freedom of speech?”

Detectives followed Mazzara, set up surveillance cameras to catch him in the act and dusted the bumper stickers for fingerprints. They even tracked him using St. Petersburg’s red light violations database to place him at the scenes.

Police may have locked on to Mazzara because of a 2012 phone call Helinger made about a suspicious man on a bicycle outside his house. Helinger told police at the time that the suspicious person resembled a man named “Mazaro,” whom he had seen in court.

Some anti-Helinger yard signs were also placed near the judge’s house.

Mazzara said he did neither of those things.

Police in St. Petersburg said the reason Mazzara is facing charges is because the bumper stickers damaged the reflective material on the traffic signs and cost the city time and money to remove — $402.80 in total.

Had Mazzara placed the stickers on billboards or telephone poles, he wouldn’t be facing up to 60 days in jail for each count of criminal mischief.

Mike Puetz, a police spokesman, said officers told Mazzara to stop placing the stickers on multiple occasions and even told them better places to put them, but Mazzara ignored them.

View article comments Leave a comment

More from washingtonexaminer.com