Ex-Lansdale Man Fought Law, Won Via Dash Cam
Mark Fiorino successfully sued Philadelphia Police - and won - for violating his First and Second Amendment rights. He was found not guilty recently by using footage from a dashboard camera in his defense in fighting a Towamencin traffic ticket
A former Lansdale resident, who successfully sued the Philadelphia Police Department this year, has now used a dashboard camera to successfully fight a Towamencin traffic ticket.
Mark Fiorino, 26, was not only found not guilty of running a red light by Schwenksville District Court Judge Albert Augustine this month, but he also has told the tale of his success and ordeal on YouTube.
“Not very often do you get to go to traffic court for a moving violation of some kind and have an airtight way of getting out of it,” said Fiorino, who admits to being “an attention whore” in the video.
“Usually people go to traffic court to get out of a speeding ticket. They hope the officer doesn’t show up, or they try to get it knocked down from 15 over to five over (the limit), to get the points off of it, to reduce the fine, et cetera,” he said. “In this case, I had allegedly run a red light, and me being the gadget guy I am, I have a dash cam in my car. Thanks to my footage, I had them dead to rights that I did not run the red light.”
Fiorino said the video shows him explaining to Towamencin Township Officer Travis Wood that his dashboard camera blatantly proves he did not run the red light.
“He gave me a $164 ticket anyway,” Fiorino said.
Fiorino was pulled over on April 1, 2012 by Wood on Sumneytown Pike near Freddy Hill Farms after turning right off of Troxel Road.
Wood claimed Fiorino sped through this turn and did not stop at the red light at the intersection, according to the dashboard recording and YouTube video.
Fiorino was eventually given a ticket for failure to stop at a red signal, a summary traffic offense.
A summary trial for this offense was set before District Judge Harold Borek in Lansdale for October. It was cancelled and the case was transferred to the court of Augustine for a July 16 summary trial.
“The officer comes in and goes, ‘I’d like to offer you this lesser penalty which includes no points and is just a fine, which is lesser than the fine you paid,” Fiorino said in the video. “I told him to go pound sand.”
Fiorino said Wood told Augustine at the trial that he witnessed Fiorino’s vehicle speeding and didn’t believe he came to a complete stop.
“He went through the process of explaining there’s a berm there and you can’t see the stop bar, where you are supposed to stop for a red light. Despite saying he couldn’t see me with his own two eyes, he still explains to the judge he wrote me the citation anyway, because I came through the turnoff too fast,” Fiorino said.
“He goes on to say he was 200 yards away from the intersection when he saw me come through it, and another vehicle was in front of him,” he said.
Fiorino said he told Augustine he had video evidence to introduce that goes to his defense.
“He pauses, takes off his glasses, looks down at me, and says, ‘What do you mean video evidence?’ I said, ‘I have camera footage from inside my car of the incident in question.’ ‘From your car?’ ‘Yes, Your Honor.’”
Fiorino said he showed Augustine the footage on his laptop, and then showed the video to Wood.
He asked Wood if it was himself in the video and if he recognized Fiorino. Fiorino said Wood confirmed that he and Fiorino were in the video.
Fiorino said he asked Wood if the video shows him coming to a complete stop and making a legal right turn on red.
“I asked, ‘Does it appear to you that was a legal right turn on red? I came to a stop, checked for traffic and I went ahead and made the turn.’ He said, ‘As a matter of fact, it does.’ I looked up at the judge and said, ‘Your Honor, I move to dismiss.’ It didn’t take a complete second – not guilty. That was it,” he said.
Fiorino said he was glad to have an airtight defense.
“Part of me was really offended by the fact that, despite telling him point blank I have video footage proving you are wrong, he gave me the ticket anyway,” Fiorino said. “I had to shell out $160-odd dollars. I had to go out of my way and take time out of my work schedule to go up to court to defend myself against this kind of crap.”
In Montgomery County, if a defendant pleads not guilty to a traffic citation, he or she must pay the required collateral, which is the total amount due, plus court costs of $6. If a defendant is found not guilty in the courtroom, then the collateral is refunded to the defendant.
The video on YouTube shows Fiorino driving down Troxel Road to Sumneytown Pike. His car does come to a complete stop. Two cars pass through the intersection and Fiorino turns right onto Sumneytown Pike. His turn signal is audible in the video.
The YouTube video exchange goes as such:
Wood: First, for your information this stop is being recorded for documentation purposes.
Fiorino: Yes, it is (points to dashboard camera)
Wood: (Looks at camera) Oh, you’re recording also. Good man. The reason I stopped you: The light was green coming east on Sumneytown Pike for me. I saw your vehicle come off of Troxel Road quite fast. You didn’t stop at the red light there as required before making a right turn.
Fiorino: I did stop.
Wood: OK. You came out awfully fast. It didn’t look like you stopped to me.
In February, Fiorino and the ACLU sued the Philadelphia Police Department for violating his Second Amendment and First Amendment rights. In March, he accepted a settlement for $25,000 from the City of Philadelphia.
Fiorino takes advantage of the open carry law in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
The 25-year-old Wissahickon High School grad and Media resident carries on his left hip, at all times, a Glock .40-caliber semi-automatic pistol.
He doesn’t need a license to carry it anywhere, except for first-class city Philadelphia; he is allowed to legally carry a gun, unconcealed, through the state’s Open Carry Law.
In fact, anyone legally able to do so can carry a gun without a license, unconcealed by clothing, in Pennsylvania. Philadelphia requires open carry with a license.
The lawsuit, according to Fiorino and the ACLU of Pennsylvania, alleged that the Philadelphia Police Department filed retaliatory charges against him after it learned that there was a YouTube recording of Philadelphia Police officers threatening to shoot and screaming profanities at an unresisting Fiorino in February 2011.
A judge dropped charges in October 2011.
The ACLU of Pennsylvania said Fiorino was repeatedly harassed by Philadelphia cops who erroneously believed it is illegal to open carry in city limits.
According to the ACLU, Philadelphia Police Internal Affairs investigated two of three Fiorino’s encounters with police.
In September 2010, Philadelphia Police approved a revised policy: holders of a License to Carry Firearms can legally carry an unconcealed weapon.
Fiorino said the Philadelphia Police did not train its officers on this policy.
Read about Fiorino’s ordeal with Philadelphia Police at this link.
In March 2012, Fiorino accepted an offer from the City of Philadelphia to allow a $25,000 judgment against all defendants in favor of Fiorino.
Read about the settlement at this link.
Fiorino must be made of Teflon when it comes to being charged with offenses in Montgomery County (save a public drunkenness guilty plea in Lansdale in 2009).
Fiorino’s first run-in with police in Montgomery County occurred when he as 19 years old in Plymouth Township.
He was arrested April 7, 2005 and charged with retail theft. Three preliminary hearings were continued until July 28, 2005 when Fiorino had the charge dismissed at the district court level.
In October 2008, Fiorino was hit with a traffic fine for driving an unregistered vehicle in Montgomery Township, according to court records. When the case went to a summary trial before then District Judge David Keightly in Montgomeryville on April 9, 2009, the charge was withdrawn.
Fiorino will face Augustine again for a summary trial for a speeding offense on November 7, 2011 in Towamencin Township, scheduled for July 31 at 10 a.m. The case was transferred from the court of Borek to Augustine, according to records.