Professional Troublemaker ®

 Jonathan Corbett, Civil Rights Attorney

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NYPD Butthurt That They’re Getting Same Treatment As TSA

EDIT: Brief summary for all those new to the blog since this post is generating quite a bit of external traffic. I was stopped in the middle of 2011 in Crown Heights, Brooklyn on my way home after visiting a friend of mine who lived there, by 4 NYPD officers in an unmarked car. They detained me, threatened me with arrest, and searched me because I didn’t want to talk to them, which is, of course, my right. I sued the city, who has mysteriously been “unable” to find these officers and now suggests that they probably don’t even exist. In light of the fact that the NYPD stops and frisks 700,000 people on NYC streets annually, that does not seem to be the likely explanation. My background is that I am a tech entrepreneur, musician, and civil rights advocate, and you may be familiar with my work on the latter via my “How to Get ANYTHING Through TSA Nude Body Scanners” viral video published this March.

In documents filed today in my lawsuit against the NYPD for stopping and frisking me on the street because I was a white boy in a black neighborhood (which naturally means I’m a drug dealer), NYPD attorney Vicki Zgodny (on whom the City wastes $65K/year to make such [losing] arguments as “a unicycle is a bicycle“) whines that “Plaintiff has garnered media attention from other lawsuits he has brought, including a lawsuit against Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in which plaintiff maintains a blog, and has threatened to focus the same media attention on the instant lawsuit if the City does not settle the case.” They continue that I “have an agenda to criticize the NYPD and any government agency that he is displeased with just as he did with the Transportation Security Administration.”

I’m “displeased” when you ban sodas larger than 16 ounces, when you have the largest police force in the world but your response time to 911 calls averages 9 minutes, and when you decide you know better than both doctors and the law (repeatedly) regarding what women should and should not do with their breasts. But I file suit when you infringe on my personal, constitutionally-guaranteed liberties, demand “papers, please!” as I walk down the street, and put your hands on my body with neither my consent nor reasonable suspicion. I suspect you’d do the same, Vicki, if a bunch of NYPD thugs felt you up as you walked down the street.

So, you’re damn right that the NYPD is in the same boat as the TSA. Both of you violate the citizens on a daily basis in the name of “keeping us safer,” both of you have a habit of lying, covering up, and trying to use legal nuances such as immunity and jurisdiction defenses to keep your actions away from a jury, and both of you are right to fear that I will expose your unlawful and uncivilized behavior to the public in a major way, such as I did for the TSA last March.

Relevant Docs:
Corbett v. NYPD – Summary Judgment 56.1 Statement
Corbett v. NYPD – Summary Judgment Reply

Trump: OK For Police to Rough Up Suspects

Disclaimer: I’m not a Democrat. I’m not a Republican. I’m a civil rights advocate.  I will call out each and every person in power who violates, or promotes the violation of, our rights, regardless of whether there is an (R) or a (D) following his or her name.

On this blog, the subject of police abuse comes up regularly.  I’ve personally sued the police for stop-and-frisk, for helping the TSA detain me, for attempting to implement “street body scanners,” and for refusing to issue gun licenses to ordinary citizens.  I’ve called out Texas cops for abusive searches, Miami cops for arresting photographers, London police for thinking they’re a spy agency, New York cops for saying that it’s okay to “get a few punches” in during an arrest, and so forth.

Needless to say, I think that there is a massive issue with policing in this country.  I think that’s something that most of us can more-or-less agree on: it would be nice if we could get rid of bad cops, because they threaten our freedom and embarrass our country.

So when the President of the United States gets up in front of a crowd, on camera, and says that cops should feel free to rough up illegal immigrants as they are arrested, I take exception:

“Like when you guys put somebody in the car and you’re protecting their head, you know, the way you put their hand over? Like, don’t hit their head and they’ve just killed somebody. Don’t hit their head? I said, ‘You can take the hand away, OK?'”

~~Donald J. Trump

Now, obviously, few of us feel bad if a murder is injured in his capture, but the problem is that most immigration arrestees are not murderers, and even the ones who are suspected of the same have not been convicted.  We have a court system to ensure that those who commit crimes are punished and those who have not are set free.  It is not up to the police to begin that punishment at the time of arrest.

I’m apparently not the only one who takes exception.

Los Angeles:

Long Island:


Mr. Trump’s remarks last week were disturbing.  He should take them back.  But we all know he won’t.

Is It *Really* Impossible To Get A Gun License in NYC? (Part IV — An Appeal Amid Massive Corruption Scandal)

This is the fourth installment of a series documenting an ordinary New Yorker attempting to exercise his Second Amendment rights: Part I (license application), Part II (application rejected), Part III (the lawsuit).

After one hundred years of New Yorkers receiving gun licenses if and only if they gain the favor of the NYPD – often through cash payments – it is well past time for the courts of this state to step in and declare the NYPD’s implementation of the “proper cause” requirement to be unconstitutional…

gun-license-app-div-coverWe left off last fall with in Part III, where I filed suit against the NYPD for: 1) requiring that I provide them a “good reason” as to why I should be allowed to bear arms, 2) requiring that I answer entirely irrelevant questions (Have I ever been fired?  Have I ever been prescribed a prescription painkiller?), and 3) refusing to fulfill a public records request that would shed light on their supposed process for deciding on license applications.

After receiving service of the complaint, the NYPD filed a motion to dismiss, alleging that: 1) it’s totally constitutional to require a reason before allowing a citizen to exercise his or her rights, 2) that these questions are totally rational to ask of one seeking a gun license, and 3) that releasing records would “interfere with a law enforcement investigation.”  Judge Carol R. Edmead of the New York County Supreme Court granted this motion on February 7th, 2017, essentially rubber-stamping the NYPD’s arguments.  Judge Edmead required the NYPD to make no showing, for example, as to why they needed to know answers to any of their obviously irrelevant questions, and required the NYPD to present no evidence — not even a sworn declaration — that releasing records would cause legitimate interference with law enforcement.

The most glaring of Judge Edmead’s errors were in 2 parts:

  1. She conceded that gun restrictions must be subject to “intermediate scrutiny” — that is, they must address an “important” governmental objective by means “substantially” related to that.  She then went on to say that she was approving the NYPD’s actions because they were “rational.”  But a finding of “rationality” is not the test that she just stated was appropriate.  The NYPD’s tomfoolery must not be merely “rational” but be a substantially tight fit — asking not significantly more than is actually required to fulfill the “important” governmental objective of public safety.
  2. I’m actually somewhat shocked that she granted a motion to dismiss on the public records request given that, in deciding a motion to dismiss (the first opportunity a defendant has to get a case tossed out of court), a judge cannot yet weigh evidence because the plaintiff has not yet had a chance to present evidence.  Yet she had no problem finding that releasing the records would definitely interfere with a law enforcement investigation, just because an attorney for the NYPD said so.  In doing this, she cut off the case before allowing me a chance to argue the other side.

I immediately filed a notice of appeal, and today I “perfect” the appeal, as they say here in New York, by filing the “record” (a copy of everything that happened in the court below) and my appellate brief — given the requirement of 10 copies of everything (8 for the court and 2 for the opposing party), well over 2,000 pages had to be printed, bound, and delivered to make this happen (links to digital copies below).  In it, I detail for the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division the history of corruption in the NYPD’s licensing division.  Some highlights from the last few decades, although the corruption goes back 100 years:

  • In 1973, NYPD Capt. Salvatore Salmieri was suspended for issuing a gun license to a mafia chauffer. Exhibit C – Narvaez, Alfonzo.  “Captain Suspended in Gun Authorization.”  New York Times (Nov. 17th, 1973).
  • In 1997, the head of the licensing division, Henry Krantz, was disciplined for, again, picking out individuals for whom the usual process did not apply: “Krantz was charged with providing ‘preferential treatment to individuals or entities,’ as well as ‘wrongfully directing’ other cops to grant the favors and failing to supervise his staff.” Exhibit D – Marzuli, John.  “Gun Licensing Boss Suspended by NYPD.”  Y. Daily News (Jan. 23rd, 1997).
  • In 2002, a former head of the licensing division, D.I. Benjamin Petrofsky, was accused of (and later demoted for) helping famous rock-and-roll musicians receive a pistol permit in exchange for VIP concert tickets and after-party admission.  Exhibit E – Messing, Philip.  “NYPD Under Fire in Aerosmith ‘Got a Gun’ Scandal.”  New York Post (Nov. 24th, 2002).  He allegedly went as far as to fingerprint the musicians inside Madison Square Garden.  Wiederhorn, Jon.  “Janie’s Got A Gun Permit? Aerosmith Flap Lands Cop in Hot Water.”  MTV (2002).

But of course, you’ve all probably heard of the more recent scandal that former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara was investigating before Trump fired him:

According to court papers, the trading of gun licenses for bribes stretched from at least 2010 to 2016.  Exhibit H – Neumeister, Larry.  “Former NYC police, lawyer arrested in gun licensing probe.”  Associated Press (Apr. 25th, 2017).  In return for approval of gun licenses without meeting New York’s qualifications, D.I. Endall’s officers “solicited and accepted food, alcohol, parties, dancers and prostitutes.”  Id. Several of the gun licenses bought through the corrupt members of D.I. Endall’s office caught in this sting went to street vigilantes who were known for beating a man on the street so badly he is permanently blind in one eye.  In the meantime, the application by Corbett, who the NYPD concedes had no character issues, was denied.

Deputy Inspector Endall was, of course, the NYPD licensing division commander who denied my application not 3 weeks before being transferred to desk duty — err, lower desk duty — because several of his subordinates were arrested for literally taking hookers and cash for gun licenses.

I do hope the Appellate Division takes to heart that they are literally taking a blind eye to corruption if they do not take action.  From here, I expect it to take several months to get an opinion from them.  If it’s unfavorable, I can then ask the New York Court of Appeals, the highest court in the state, to hear the case, before moving onto the federal courts.

So “Is It *Really* Impossible To Get A Gun License in NYC?”  Not sure yet, but so far:

  • Money Spent: $1,365
  • Time Spent: ~80 hours

Will look forward to updating with Part V as the Appellate Division takes a stand.

Corbett v. City of New York IV – Appellate Brief (.pdf – 7MB)

Corbett v. City of New York IV – Record on Appeal (.pdf – 38MB)

UPDATE: Mere hours before I was to file this brief, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit invalidated D.C.’s “good reason” requirement for carrying firearms.  This is a major win, and so I updated my brief and re-printed it.  The above documents now reflect that change.

“Jon Corbett is a civil rights advocate known for filing the first lawsuit against the deployment of TSA nude body scanners, as well as defeating the body scanners live in ‘How to Get ANYTHING Through TSA Nude Body Scanners.’  Presently a law student, he continues to advocate for travel and privacy rights.  Twitter: @_JonCorbett, Web:

Fighting for civil rights in court is expensive!  Want to contribute to the fight against government assholery? Donate via PayPal, Venmo, Chace QuickPay, Bitcoin, or check.

Who is Jonathan Corbett?

Jonathan Corbett standing in front of the U.S. Court of Appeals
Jon Corbett standing in front of the U.S. Court of Appeals

Jonathan Corbett is a technology expert turned civil rights attorney.  Trained as a computer scientist and having consulted in that capacity for Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, and the like, his career took a change after his frequent traveling brought him regular encounters with the Transportation Security Administration.  Jon noticed that the number of rules, the invasiveness of the searches, and the general lack of respect for the public had been increasing while no real security benefit was gained.

When the TSA announced in 2010 that it would make its body scanners used as primary screening, Jon was the first to file a lawsuit to enjoin the practice.  TSA body scanners use electromagnetic radiation to create images of your body without your clothes, a highly intrusive “digital strip search” with questionable health risks.  Worse, the scanners fail to improve security, as they can only spot differentials in density, leading to the failure to detect items carried by anyone who had studied the technology and adjusted the placement of objects on his or her person.  Jon proved this in his 2012, “How to Get ANYTHING Through TSA Nude Body Scanners,” video, where he demonstrated that objects on his person could not be detected by real TSA screeners using body scanners at airports across the country.  His work was studied and confirmed by top university researchers (.pdf) in 2014.

Since 2010, Jon has expanded his civil rights advocacy, fighting against NYPD stop-and-frisk, NYPD street body scanners, NSA warrantless wiretaps, and gun rights.  To enhance his efficacy, Jon studied at Northwestern California University School of Law, graduating in 2018, and passing the February 2019 California Bar Exam..

TSA Out Of Our Pants Is Now Professional Troublemaker

When I started this blog over 5 years ago, I named it for my literal goal: to get the TSA’s hands and radiation literally out of our pants.  While minimizing the TSA’s encroachment on our bodies is still a strong focus for me, we’ve also delved into other areas of civil rights advocacy: “street body scanners” proposed by the NYPD, sending the NSA thousands of FOIA requests (and the FISA court hundreds of motions to force the NSA to delete the data they illegally collected), stopping stop & frisk, and other government abuses.  I think we’ve a bit outgrown the name, and so, “TSA Out Of Our Pants” is now “Professional Troublemaker,” a blog about the journey of a civil rights advocate.

What is a “Professional Troublemaker?”

From the first court filings, my polite insistence that my rights be respected has been met with a certain hostility.  The DoJ has said that my arguments are as a terrorist would make.  The Supreme Court had me deliver my petition to them in a garbage bag.  A county sheriff’s office lied about what evidence of their own misconduct they possessed and attempted to evade service like a deadbeat avoiding child support.  And all over, my substantive complaints were met not with substantive defenses, but procedural shields.

Challenging the status quo is viewed as causing trouble, apparently, and as that is the role I’m looking to take on, I’m happy to accept the title as well.

2016 will be full of new things, as my TSA security interview lawsuit gets heard, I continue with my second year of law school, and I start to delve into second amendment rights, as I’m assuming NYC isn’t going to be too accommodating with the handgun license app I’m filing tomorrow.

TSA Searching Bags in Penn Station

I have a friend who lives near Penn Station in midtown Manhattan who tells me that she sees the TSA there all the time, but never remembers to take a picture for me. Today, I had the “luck” of seeing it myself…

Smurfs in Penn Station

So, the next time someone says, “I don’t mind surrendering my rights in an airport; anything to keep us safer,” please remind them that the TSA has been plotting for years to invade every mode of transportation. They practice at Penn all the time because the NYPD is happy to join in their totalitarian distopia manufacture. They hit Amtrak stations, Greyhound terminals, music festivals, and political events. For now it’s a bag search. How long until the scanners and pat-downs are a “normal” part of walking down the street?

The time to demand change is now.

It’s a little TOO quiet…

It’s now been a full month since I’ve seen the familiar “Activity in Case…” e-mails that the federal court system sends to litigants registered for electronic filing. Considering I have four cases open in four different courts, it’s the first time I’ve had a month of quiet since 2011. This gives me a little time to write my comment for the TSA’s public rulemaking regarding nude body scanners (due by June 24th, 2013 — no legal experience required, just let the TSA know how you feel!) and my appeal that is inevitable regarding (in largest part) U.S. District Judge Joan A. Lenard’s decision that TSA screeners enjoy qualified immunity for unlawful searches even when they know they intentionally continue their search beyond what is necessary to find weapons.

So, here’s where we are right now:

I have this sneaking suspicion that I will shortly be innundated with rulings and legal documents to write. The calm before the storm… 😉

The Pussification of America — Why We Should Play in the Rain

Emergency AlertsSunday afternoon, 30 hours before the hurricane is scheduled to hit Manhattan, there are cars with garbage bags taped to them. The subways are preparing to shut down. And I’m walking around looking for brunch past dozens of restaurants that are “closed for the hurricane.” That evening, the streets are empty and the East Village’s usually bustling nightlife is reduced to nothing, with half the bars closed and the other half empty.

My cell phone pops up multiple “emergency alerts” — text messages sent to my phone without my request from the local government, telling me of “mandatory” evacuations, flooding, and to “Go indoors immediately and remain inside.” Business contacts, friends, and family are exchanging messages of “be safe!”

So naturally, I went out exploring in the hurricane and enjoyed the night.

The city that never sleeps was — and still is — shut down now for over 48 hours by a Category 1 (the smallest category) hurricane centered almost 100 miles away. The “death toll” in this city of 8,000,000+, which has over 100 natural deaths on any given day, has reached about 12. Yet people were so afraid that they went out and bought weeks worth of food and water and then holed up in their apartments… unless of course they were asked leave their homes by their governments, in which case they happily obliged.

“Out of an abundance of caution.”

That phrase is uttered by the TSA any time they do something stupid. It is their personal motto — that if there is a one in a billion chance that their actions might be useful, then they should act even if there is a certainty that they will violate people in the process. This is why they take your child’s juice box, why grandma has to explain her Depends, and why we should spend $1B on machines that digitally strip you naked, even if they don’t really work too well.

It seems we are increasingly fearful of everything, and I dare say that New York shut down for the same reason many put up with the TSA. It’s the same reason why we tolerate the NYPD stopping-and-frisking innocent people on the street for no reason. “Anything for our safety!”

How utterly stupid is that expression? Would you truly give anything any time someone comes along and says, “If you don’t, there’s a chance it might not turn out well!” The time has come for us to collectively grow some balls. Spending your life worrying about remote possibilities will not make you a happy person, and the cost in life opportunities is far outweighed by the chance that your time is up. “Playing it safe” always has a cost associated with it. If current TSA nonsense takes just 5 extra minutes of each air traveler’s time, every year the TSA wastes 7,000 man-years, or 90 lifetimes worth of time. …and after all, the man who hides in his home may be killed by a falling tree, just as the man who insists on thorough airport security may find himself blown up in the security line.

Life is about evaluating risks and making reasoned decisions about when to move forward. Tip the balance too far to one side and you die; too far to the other, and you never live. You’re never going to get the perfect balance, but why not choose to err on the side of living your life?

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