Cable-access show host sues Minnesota city, police

Monday, January 31, 2000

Editor’s note: On May 25, 2000, a jury acquitted Kevin Berglund of all charges stemming from his December 1999 altercation with police. Following his acquittal, Berglund filed a federal lawsuit against the city and four police officers. On Oct. 25, 2001, U.S. District Judge David S. Doty rejected both Berglund’s and Bob Zick’s lawsuits, granting summary judgment in favor of the defendants. A three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Nov. 21, 2002, affirmed that decision, and the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003 refused to hear the case.

The host of a Minnesota cable-access show has filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Maplewood and four police officers, claiming police violated his constitutional and civil rights.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court, alleges that police violated the federal Privacy Protection Act and the First Amendment when they seized Bob Zick’s videotape during an altercation at a Dec. 28, 1999, reception for several outgoing city officials.

Zick and co-host Kevin Berglund had attended the reception to record city officials’ speeches for their weekly public-affairs show “Inside Insight.” Police officials asked the two men to leave. When Berglund, who had been filming Zick’s interaction with officials, appeared to resist, police subdued and arrested him.

After arresting Berglund, the officers forcibly confiscated the videotape of the incident from Zick. Police have since released a copy of the tape to Zick but are holding the original as evidence.

According to the lawsuit, filed Jan. 18, the officers violated Zick’s First Amendment right to gather and disseminate news by preventing him from observing and recording public officials’ statements at a public or quasi-public gathering.

The lawsuit further states that the officers violated the federal Privacy Protection Act by confiscating a video intended for broadcast. The act prohibits a government officer or employee from searching for or seizing work material from a journalist. According to the suit, the officers involved knew Zick hosted a cable-access show and should have believed the video would be used for his show.

The lawsuit alleges that the officers violated Zick’s civil rights by using excessive force which resulted in his physical injury and damaged his video camera. The officers also violated Zick’s “Fourth Amendment rights to be free from search and seizure and his Fifth Amendment rights to due process and just compensation,” the suit states.

The incident “was totally uncalled for and an abuse of police power,” Robert Cardinal, the city’s new mayor, told the First Amendment Center Online. Cardinal, who bailed Berglund out of jail after his arrest, has criticized police handling of the incident and the ensuing investigation.

Zick is asking the court to enter a declaratory judgment that the city violated the Privacy Protection Act and to require the defendants to return the original videotape and all copies.

“What Mr. Zick is looking for is to be put back into the position he would have been in if they hadn’t seized the tape,” said John Borger, Zick’s attorney. “The first step to that is getting back the original tape.”

Borger says along with recovering the original tape, Zick wants to ensure that this type of incident does not happen again.

“We want some type of ground rules so that the cops won’t scoot him out the door” when he’s covering a legitimate event, Borger told the First Amendment Center Online.

Zick is also asking for damages and attorneys fees.

The city has 20 days to respond to the complaint.

Police Chief Don Winger, who is a defendant in the lawsuit, told the First Amendment Center Online he could not comment on the case. The city’s attorney did not return calls for comment.

Cardinal says he believes Zick’s rights were violated and that the court will decide if and how he should be compensated. The city’s police civil service committee will decide what action, if any, should be taken against the police officials, Cardinal says. The committee will consider the matter after Zick’s case is settled, he says.

A hearing on a motion to recover the video is scheduled for Feb. 8 before U.S. District Judge David S. Doty in Minneapolis.

Meanwhile, Berglund is scheduled to appear in court on Feb. 2 to face charges of misdemeanor trespass, fifth-degree assault and disorderly conduct. He faces up to 90 days in jail and a $700 fine for each charge.

Berglund is considering pursuing a lawsuit similar to Zick’s after his criminal case is concluded.