Deputies arrest Ramona freelance photojournalist at accident scene

By Karen Brainard

James Charles “JC”  Playford, a freelance photojournalist and videographer from Ramona, was arrested by San Diego Sheriff’s deputies for delaying and obstructing law enforcement at the scene of the May 25 fatal accident, according to a sheriff’s detective.

Playford’s account of the incident differs from law enforcement. He also tells of previous run-ins he has had with deputies when attempting to film or take photos of crime or accident scenes.

Four people were killed in the May 25 three-vehicle crash at state Route 67 just north of Rockhouse Road and three were taken to the hospital. A large section of the highway was closed to traffic and emergency vehicles blocked the scene.

Sheriff’s deputies handcuff and lead freelance photojournalist JC Playford to a squad car at the scene of a fatal accident on state Route 67 on May 25. Sentinel photo/Karen Brainard

Detective Thomas Seiver of the sheriff’s Ramona substation said authorities were conducting the accident investigation when Playford arrived. Seiver said Playford was ordered to stand and wait with other media representatives but Playford said they would have to arrest him first.

“He basically challenged the deputies to arrest him and they did,” said Seiver.

According to Playford,  two San Diego County sheriff’s deputies approached him and said his press credentials were suspended and he could not  film the scene.

The San Diego Police Department (SDPD) issues press credentials to media personnel, which Playford contends is not required by law. He said he holds a press pass with American News and Information Services Inc. and showed that to the deputies. Playford said deputies took his press pass and told him to leave or he would be arrested.

The freelance photojournalist said he started to walk off the road and was then arrested by deputies. His camera, video, and U.S. passport were taken, he said. Playford was handcuffed and led into a police car. He was transported to the Vista jail and released on his own recognizance, said Seiver. His court date is July 6, according to the detective.

His passport was returned the next day, Playford said, and he was informed on June 5 that the sheriff’s department was releasing his video camera and memory card.

James Charles “JC” Playford stands outside a courtroom in Vista on May 16. Sentinel photo/Karen Brainard

This is not the first time he has been arrested for such charges by sheriff’s deputies. On May 16 he was in Vista court for obstruction stemming from a Dec. 1, 2011, incident outside Congressman Darrell Issa’s Vista office during reports of a bomb threat that turned out to be false.

Playford, 48, was found guilty by a jury on May 18 but was sentenced by Judge Richard Mills to one day already served, and his probation for a prior offense was terminated. In addition, he was ordered to pay $300 in attorney and court fees. He plans to appeal the decision.

Playford said he is not the only cameraman “being attacked” by police and sheriff’s deputies and has had numerous cameras seized.

“We are tired of being victimized. It is time that our rights matter in San Diego,” he said, adding that he has filed formal complaints with elected representatives.

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Posted by Staff on Jun 7 2012. Filed under Featured Story, News, Ramona, Sheriff/Fire. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

19 Comments for “Deputies arrest Ramona freelance photojournalist at accident scene”

  1. 4real

    Good thing people like him are off the street, instead of the "hot prowl" thieves. Keep up the good work.


  2. Tracy

    That accident was really horrible and the police had a big freaking job that day. I am a freelance photographer and it is not my intention to wave my rights around and get in the way of emergency services at the most tragic event our community has experienced in some time. Distracting the police in their efforts to get the scene examined before more accidents happened is NOT the way for a journalist to act. That is selfish and childish. If he needed a better angle, get a better lens. Because he has a habit of this behavior and no real press credentials. American News and Information Services Inc is not a press organization at all but is founded by another quack in San Diego. Google it and you will only find lawsuits regarding the founder and his right to carry concealed weapons without permit.

  3. Tracy

    I was actually concerned at first, because I am a photographer. He just doesn't want to follow the same rules as everyone else. Given the credibility of the organization that issued his 'press credentials' I'm simply going to assume the reason he doesn't want to go through proper channels at the Sheriff station for permission to work crime scenes like everyone else is because he has a shady background.

  4. Lisa

    Having gawkers at a scene of tragedy, even with a camera in their hands, is a sign of the decay of decency today. He has a "right" to be there and to photograph what will be painful images to those who lost loved ones is somehow an injustice here? Get your priorities straight, and if you truly want to be treated with respect, get the proper designations and let the officers do their jobs instead of leveraging a tragedy into your little 15 minutes of newspaper play with a smirky grin on your face.

  5. JCisAjoke

    This guy is a joke in our community… He doesn’t want to “exercise his right..” He aims at harassing law enforcement to encourage them to do unlawful things to him on camera…. His ultimate goal is most likely to sue to get money. 4 people were killed that day and he was more concerned with his rights than the privacy and respect of those involved??? He deserved to be arrested and deserves to stay in jail.

  6. Edward Peruta

    These comments are very interesting and appear to be made by individuals who DO NOT know the facts of this or other situations or the laws and court decisions regarding First and Fourth Amendment rights.

    Now that the video has been recovered from the camera and viewed, it tells a totally different FACTUAL story and contradicts the comment from Detective Seiver.

    Here is a tid bit of what's to come:

    Again, the video cleary shows that Mr. Playford was approached, by deputy Breneman asked to move to an area with the "other" media and Mr. Playford immediately acknowledged the request and complied.

  7. Edward Peruta

    PART 2:
    As for his American News and Information Services Credentials, everyone should read the past and recent Federal Court decisons regarding who is and who is not the media.

    Deputy Breneman is very clear when he states to Mr. Playford "“My sergeant advised me you do not have media credentials,” and told Mr. Playford “you cannot be here.”

    It was ONLY THEN that Mr. Playford began to object to his treatment and defend his rights as a duly authorized member of the media.

    Expect this issue to be addressed shortly in the Federal Courts in San Diego.

  8. Edward Peruta

    PART 3:

    Draft facts from a Federal Lawsuit to be filed shortly!!!

    53. Upon his arrival near the scene, an Deputy from the San Diego Sheriff’s Department approached and directed Mr. Playford as a member of the media to an area where other media had gathered. Mr. Playford willingly and immediately complied with that direction.

  9. Edward Peruta

    PART 5

    54. Within approximately 2 minutes, San Diego Sheriff’s Department Deputy Breneman again approached Mr. Playford, and on video, informed Mr. Playford that “My sergeant advised me you do not have media credentials,” and told Mr. Playford “you cannot be here.” Mr. Playford was then immediately approached by California Highway Patrol Officer J. Neilson who questioned his media status and took possession of his American News and Information media credentials.

    55. California Highway Patrol Officer Neilson stated on video that he was going to seek “verification” and proceeded to walk away in a southern direction with Mr. Playford’s media credentials in his left hand. Mr. Playford videotaped Officer Neilson consulting with San Diego Sheriff’s Deputies Jesse Allensworth and Breneman while other members of the media were beyond where the officer and deputy were standing. The events and statements which followed indicate that Deputy Allensworth and/or Deputy Breneman informed Officer Neilson that the credentials were not valid.

  10. Edward Peruta

    To complicated to continue in parts, wait till the Federal Case is filed and you can read it all.

    Edward Peruta
    American News and Information Services Inc.

  11. JCisaJOKE

    Yeah… Except for the fact that his media card was revoked because of his countless arrests for interference with many investigations.

  12. Edward Peruta

    Until you view his video evidence, know the facts and read the federal complaint when it is filed, you may say whatever you please about Mr. Playford.

    He is NOT alone in being denied First Amendment Rights in San Diego County.

    He just happens to be the only one willing to take the issues to court.

  13. Elizabeth Ayala

    Who decided SDPD has the right to issue press credentials anyways? Is this lawful? Is this a violation of my civil and of my constitutional rights? Do YOU want local law enforcement to pick and choose who is allowed to film and report your news? This doesn't sound right to me………

    • we the people

      You're absolutely right! it should be the people's decision! everyone should look into this do to the fact that they are making the constitution their rights not the people's, they got this structure all reversed, they think we're stupid or something, really.

  14. Moron Times

    These two are donkeys! They invent their media company in CT and flash badges like they are part of a bigger picture. They have a surf school, a media 'empire' and they are 'renegades'.

    No, they're just morons getting in the way of those trying to do their jobs.

  15. Moron Times

    People, the "American News & Information Services, Inc." is a CT company owned by these clowns. Yet, they live in Ramona. How do they run their media empire? One of these days somebody's going to get hurt because they're playing 'Anderson Cooper' but they're really just the two stooges….

  16. WeThePeople

    That is true, who the hell said it was okay for the local police departments to issue media passes? they want to control everything, now that many have realized what they are really about their little evil practices and "policies" are coming to an end.

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