A man who filmed probation officers in Anderson and later found himself improperly included on a “most wanted” list has been awarded a settlement and a formal apology after suing the state Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services.
Travis Greene has conducted “First Amendment audits” of law enforcement and government agencies across the Upstate. He has published several videos on YouTube that involve recording government buildings and law-enforcement officers while he tests First Amendment rights and officials’ responses.
Greene was escorted out of an Anderson government building that houses a state probation office while recording a video on April 2. Supervisors were called to the scene, and officers were told Greene was operating within the confines of the law, so Greene was free to go about his business.
A day later, however, he showed up on the probation department’s website on a “Most Wanted Offenders” page. The site includes photographs, identifying information and details about criminal offenders in the area, and the post about Greene included information that he’d been going around taking footage as part of “First Amendment audit” videos, according to a lawsuit he filed and screenshots of the website that were filed in court.
Greene called the agency to inquire about the posting, he claimed, and instead of being taken off the site, he was identified as “captured.”
Greene later filed his lawsuit against the department, claiming defamation and gross negligence that caused pain, suffering, emotional distress and humiliation.
Formal apology issued by SC agency
The state probation department agreed to a settlement of $20,000 last month, according to Sam Tooker, who represented Greene, and the department issued a formal apology letter to Greene on July 26.
“You were not a ‘Most Wanted Offender’ and your information and photograph should not have been included on the ‘Most Wanted Offender’ webpage,” the apology letter reads. “Your inclusion on said webpage was a mistake, and for that we are sorry.”
The settlement was paid through the state Insurance Reserve Fund, said probation department spokesman Peter O’Boyle said. The probation department is insured by the fund.
“We really don’t have anything to add further,” O’Boyle told The Greenville News and Anderson Independent Mail.
“My message has always been government accountability,“ Greene said. “I couldn’t be happier of what we accomplished.”
Tooker said he believes Greene’s videotaping triggered a memo that was sent out to the department alerting employees of Greene’s interactions, and Tooker believes that was then misconstrued before Greene ended up on the public “most wanted” list.
“It was as much for him about vindication than anything else,” Tooker said. “He wanted them to admit they were wrong, and forever they refused to do that.”
Emails show warnings about Travis Greene
The Greenville News and Independent Mail obtained emails from the state probation department through a Freedom of Information Act request. The emails show correspondence between agency staff regarding Greene’s activity at the probation office in Anderson.
An email from Daniel Lake, the probation department’s agent-in-charge, questions Greene’s intentions and asks if the State Law Enforcement Division should be notified of his actions.
“I have no idea if Greene/’Auditors’ are generally know to LE or not, are considered dangerous (vs/ a nuisance); don’t have a good idea about how many similar persons/groups are acting in similar fashion,” Lake wrote in the April 10 email.
The emails also discuss how Greene had been on an administrative monitoring program and had been missing payments for restitution tied to a past forgery case.
“Can you take a look at Travis Greene’s file to see if we can take him back to court for non-payment?” reads one email dated April 15, about two weeks after Greene’s videotaping at the probation office.
“He appears ‘interested’ in perceived-notions of the 1st, 2nd, and 4th Amendments of the US Constitution,” reads an email from April 11 that included a warning of “Officer Caution.”
One email informs staff that Greene should not have been placed on the “most wanted” list.
“He does not meet the criteria to be on our Most Wanted site even being listed as captured. Please remove the subject from the Most Wanted list,” the email reads.
Tooker said Greene was pleased with the outcome of the case.
“He wanted them to recognize what he was doing was not illegal,” Tooker said. “People are permitted to videotape public spaces, which is sort of his point, and they admitted that he should not have been on that list.”