|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
Thursday, February 14, 2018
ADAM EIDINGER (202)744-2671
KRIS FURNISH (720) 607-8369
CONGRESSMAN ANDY HARRIS’ OFFICE CHARGES 20 YEAR OLD STUDENT WITH FELONY
Harris Tries to Make an Example Out of Young Activist Who Recorded Staffer Without His Permission During Group Meeting After Multiple Protests
SALISBURY, MD – On Tuesday, October 2, 2018, Salisbury University progressive student activist Jake Burdett attended a medical marijuana protest against Congressman Andy Harris organized by Maryland’s new cannabis advocacy group Maryland Marijuana Justice (MDMJ). At the meeting inside the Congressional office that resulted from the protest, Mr. Burdett briefly livestreamed one of Harris’ staffers without his permission, which Mr. Burdett did not realize was a felony – or even illegal in the state of Maryland at all. Mr. Burdett deleted the livestream the following day after he found out his recording was illegal, but Congressman Harris dropped the hammer on Burdett to try to make an example out of him by deciding to press felony charges.
“Jake, who is a serious student leader, has a bright political future ahead of him that Representative Andy Harris wants to tarnish. In his honest attempt to provide the public with transparency into actions of a Congressional office that regularly insults marijuana reformers with false accusations, Jake’s livestream served as a conduit for the public to witness the endemic corruption in Salisbury,” says Adam Eidinger, Co-Founder of MDMJ. Eidinger adds, “MDMJ activists protested Harris for his backwards views on cannabis and refusals to meet with cannabis reform activists, so we feel Jake is being treated unfairly because of his role in the Democratic Party as Vice-Chair of the Wicomico Democratic Central Committee.”
Although Mr. Burdett is pleading guilty and he has personally apologized to Congressman Harris’ staffer, he did not realize the nonconsensual livestream was against Maryland’s “all-party consent” law at the time. “Is it unreasonable for a 20 year old to think that it’s legal to record a staffer of a United States Congressman in a public space? In a society that supposedly values transparency in government, I do find it odd that Jake can be found guilty of the ‘crime’ of recording the staff of elected government representatives in a taxpayer funded space,” says MDMJ Co-Founder Kris Furnish.
“By deciding to throw the book at Mr. Burdett for an honest mistake, one that was fixed almost immediately, it shows how partisan and petty Congressman Harris has become. He clearly wants to chill citizen participation in government,” says Eidinger. “Rep. Harris is adding to his recent list of bad PR moves that includes meeting with known White Supremacist Chuck Johnson, and planning to meet with the leader, Tomio Okamura, of a far right wing party in Czech Republic, whose secretary called for the gassing of ‘Jews, gays, and Roma’.”
“Mr. Burdett’s plea, which will take place on March 1, in Wicomico County, and Harris’ slew of prior racist scandals, should not distract from the original issue that brought me and other advocates to the protest in the first place – the legalization of cannabis,” says Furnish. “Rep. Harris wants to pretend to be victimized by a 20 year old’s deleted livestream, while he supports the racist war on drugs that actually victimizes thousands of people a day by locking them up for the victimless crime of smoking marijuana, a non-addictive substance with many medicinal benefits. Rep. Harris is a medical doctor, so I’d think he of all people would recognize the medicinal benefits of marijuana, and how it could be used as an alternative to pharmaceutical drugs such as painkillers, which are an epidemic in Rep. Harris’ district right now. We can’t help but wonder if Rep. Harris’ seemingly irrational opposition to legal marijuana has anything to do with the $42,200 he’s accepted from the pharmaceutical lobby in the 2017-2018 election cycle, which vehemently opposes any form of marijuana legalization,” concludes Furnish.