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San Diego Freelancer in the Middle of First Amendment Fight

Earlier this year, 48-year-old videographer for-hire James Charles Playford served a couple of days in San Diego jail after being found guilty of obstructing a peace officer. He essentially refused to identify himself to a sheriff’s deputy at a news scene and a minor altercation ensued.

Now, his employer – Connecticut based American News and Information Services Inc. – is tackling on his behalf the broader issue of San Diego press credentials. Per a report in the North County Times, the company has filed a federal lawsuit claiming that ID cards issued to news media by the San Diego Police Department violate the First Amendment and that privately issued credentials should be considered equally valid. Playford’s SDPD pass was rescinded some time ago when a restraining order was filed against him:

To qualify for SDPD credentials, a member of the media must demonstrate a need to regularly cross police or fire lines and must pass a criminal background check, said Detective Gary Hassen, a spokesman for the San Diego Police Department who is in charge of issuing the credential.

Additionally, the applicant’s journalistic outlet must have been in existence for at least six months. He said the agency has issued credentials to bloggers, most notably those who work for Patch.

The 6’3” Playford has been arrested four times by SDPD since 2010. American News and Informatin Services Inc. boss Ed Peruta, who has a long list of legal and Freedom of Information Act filings to his name, says he is determined to fund and fight this one as long as necessary.

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