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Judge dismisses conviction for YouTuber accused of obstructing officer

Katelyn Newberg, Las Vegas Review-Journal on

Published in News & Features

LAS VEGAS — A Las Vegas judge on Wednesday overturned the conviction of a YouTuber who has spent nearly four months in jail after he was accused of obstructing a police officer while filming a traffic stop.

District Judge Michelle Leavitt said she was dismissing Jose “Chille” DeCastro’s misdemeanor conviction for obstruction and resisting a public officer because the case concerned “First Amendment-protected conduct,” according to a livestream of Wednesday’s hearing posted by Our Nevada Judges.

DeCastro, 49, is a self-proclaimed “First Amendment auditor” and “constitutional scholar.” His YouTube channel, Delete Lawz, has more than 500,000 subscribers and contains hundreds of videos in which DeCastro speaks about police conduct, or films his own interactions with police officers.

‘Mind your business’

In March 2023, he was accused of interfering with a Metropolitan Police Department officer during a traffic stop in a parking lot near Flamingo Road and Grand Canyon Drive.

DeCastro was filming officer Branden Bourque, who had pulled over a woman in the parking lot. Body-camera footage showed DeCastro arguing with Bourque, and telling him: “Mind your business. I’m a member of the press. Go get in your car and do your job, little doggie.”

Bourque detained DeCastro after his comment, and multiple officers arrived for backup. DeCastro continued to insult officers, occasionally using graphic and sexual language, according to body-camera footage. He also told officers multiple times that they were hurting his arms.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Alexander Chen argued Wednesday that DeCastro was obstructing the officers before he was detained when he was told to back up.

But Leavitt said that the video showed that DeCastro “clearly backed up” and that the officer did not tell DeCastro to back up to a specific location or a set number of feet.

“He backed up a couple feet, there’s no question about that,” Chen said.

Chen argued that the officer never told DeCastro he could not record but that the obstruction charge stemmed from DeCastro’s behavior and him not backing farther away from the officer.

“If Mr. DeCastro had backed up a number of feet and continued recording and wasn’t saying and doing the things he was doing, I think we’d have a very different situation,” he said.

‘Trumped-up charges’

DeCastro’s defense attorney, Christopher Oram, argued that DeCastro had a right to speak rudely to officers, and that police have to deal with “difficult people.” He said that state law allows for people to film law enforcement.

 

“It is not obstruction, it is not resisting, these are trumped-up charges,” Oram said.

Following the hearing, Oram said the case was a clear First Amendment issue.

“I know what he did was annoying, could be considered annoying, but the police have to deal with that,” he said.

During the hearing, Oram also argued that Justice of the Peace Ann Zimmerman should have recused herself from DeCastro’s bench trial in March.

At the beginning of the trial, Zimmerman told DeCastro to turn over his phone and told his prior defense attorney to turn off his phone because she had not approved a media request for DeCastro to record the hearing. DeCastro then called a courtroom marshal a “pig” as the officer was confiscating his phone.

Zimmerman threatened to hold DeCastro in contempt until he apologized, and she continued with the bench trial. She later denied bail to DeCastro after he began seeking an appeal.

Oram argued that the judge was biased against DeCastro because of his behavior. He also said that DeCastro’s prior defense attorney should have documented the First Amendment issues in the case before it proceeded to a bench trial.

“I think Judge Zimmerman was put in an absolutely terrible situation,” he said.

At the bench trial, a prosecutor asked for DeCastro to be placed on probation, but Zimmerman instead sentenced him to six months in jail at the Clark County Detention Center.

While in jail, DeCastro posted a YouTube video calling on his supporters to petition Zimmerman for his release, and threatening to sue the judge.

DeCastro was still appearing in online jail records as of Wednesday afternoon, although Oram said he would likely be released from custody on Wednesday. Following the hearing, Chen said it was still undetermined if the district attorney’s office would challenge the judge’s reversal of the conviction.

Court records show that DeCastro has an active federal lawsuit against Metro regarding his arrest during the traffic stop.

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