1/17/2012 @ 5:30PM |1,478 views
Viral Video Of DEA Agent Shooting Self In Thigh May Have Hurt, But Didn’t Violate Privacy
If you put your foot in your mouth during a public presentation, there’s a good possibility the embarrassing footage could end up on YouTube. If you instead shoot yourself in that foot while doing a presentation on gun safety, that YouTube video is definitely going viral. That’s essentially what happened to DEA agent Lee Paige in 2004 after he gave a presentation for children in Florida on the dangers of guns, and accidentally demonstrated exactly how dangerous they can be. A parent in the audience was taping Paige and the video made its way to YouTube, where it was enjoyed by many:
“I’m the only one in this room professional enough, that I know of, to carry this Glock 40,” says Paige at the :30 mark, followed shortly thereafter by his accidentally discharging the weapon into his leg (and luckily, not into the audience). He tried to tough his way through the presentation but his offer to display another weapon was met by howls of protest from the audience.
Paige later described this as “the worst ten seconds of his life.” Humiliated after the video went viral, he sued the Drug Enforcement Agency for releasing the video to the public, thereby violating his privacy. In December 2010, a judge ruled against Paige saying he had not proved that the DEA was responsible for the video’s release. On Tuesday, an appeals court agreed, though it did chastise the DEA for making so many copies of the video internally during its investigation of the incident. The DEA office is much like your own; the embarrassing video was emailed around frequently inside the agency before it eventually made its way to YouTube.
“The widespread circulation of the accidental discharge video demonstrates the need for every federal agency to safeguard video records with extreme diligence in this internet age of iPhones and YouTube with their instantaneous and universal reach,” chastised the appeals court judges in their opinion [pdf].
The judges determined, though, that there were no “private facts” in the video — because it was of a public presentation and because a federal agent accidentally shooting his gun in a public space is a “matter of public concern.” (And perhaps more importantly, though less defensibly, a matter of much public amusement.)