Antonio Buehler acquitted in controversial 2012 New Year’s Day arrest


In likely the most hotly contested misdemeanor trial in Austin’s recent history, a panel of five city jurors on Wednesday handed activist Antonio Buehler a legal victory, deliberating nearly six hours before acquitting him of failing to comply with the order of an officer in a controversial arrest on New Year’s Day 2012.

Buehler, a 37-year-old Army veteran and outspoken founder of the Peaceful Streets Project, had been facing a fine of up to $500 for the offense, which stemmed from his refusal to put his arms behind his back as he was told when he started taking pictures and shouting questions at officers he said he believed were assaulting a woman.

Outside the courtroom, nearly a dozen supporters clapped and cheered after the verdict was read. Buehler, who has been locked in legal disputes with the Austin Police Department since the incident, said he was fortunate to have his community support him in a case that has drawn national attention over the rights of citizens to video record police officers.

“I think that far too often people side with authority, even when authority is wrong, and I was very grateful that the jury had the courage to break with that,” he said. “I want the people of Austin to question why is it that their tax dollars are going to push bogus charges.”

Buehler and officer Officer Patrick Oborski were cleared of felony charges in April in the dispute that arose between them about 1:30 a.m. outside a downtown convenience store at Lamar Boulevard and 10th Street.

In the rare misdemeanor trial that began Thursday, the main points of contention had been whether Oborski had enough reasonable suspicion to detain Buehler and whether the order the officer gave him was lawful.

Oborski and officer Robert Snider, testifying in public for the first time last week, said they deemed Buehler a threat when he started yelling at them as they pulled a female passenger out of a car during a drunken driving investigation. Oborski said he felt Buehler’s spit on him as the two engaged in a heated face-to-face argument and stressed that he didn’t know who Buehler was or whether he was intoxicated.

But Buehler told jurors he had been concerned by the officers’ use of force and stepped forward. Witnesses said Buehler did not physically interfere and that officers had been quick to threaten others with arrest that night.

The five jurors declined to comment after the verdict, but two said it was a tough decision and that the jury initially had been divided.

Buehler has since been arrested several more times for minor infractions while video recording officers as part of the Peaceful Streets Project. A federal lawsuit he filed against the Police Department on civil rights violations remains pending.

Outside the courtroom Wednesday, his lawyer, Millie Thompson, told reporters she and Buehler were prepared to take the other misdemeanors against him to trial.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Donning red shoes to help nonprofit
Donning red shoes to help nonprofit

Guests of the Ronald McDonald House Charities Central Texas’ Red Shoe Luncheon raised $85,000 on Tuesday to support its programs. About 275 women, and a few men, donned red shoes from sandals to cowboy boots at the third annual event at Brazos Hall to support the nonprofit group, which provides compassionate care and resources to children and...
Austin ISD is banking on bond to boost enrollment, turn around schools
Austin ISD is banking on bond to boost enrollment, turn around schools

Natural lighting, movable furniture, state-of-the art technology, and open and collaborative learning spaces. That kind of learning environment is what Austin district leaders envision for their campuses of the future. The average Austin school building is 40 years old. Many of the classroom spaces still resemble industrial-era classrooms with their...
Answers to your questions about graffiti abatement in Austin

Austin’s Graffiti Park at Castle Hill is officially the city’s only open canvas for spray painters to express themselves. But when graffiti pops up in neighborhoods and on private property, it’s considered vandalism. Questions often arise about how to handle graffiti, so here are some of the answers we’ve found: What counts...
AISD LAND FOR SALE: Alamo Drafthouse eyes former school site for HQ
AISD LAND FOR SALE: Alamo Drafthouse eyes former school site for HQ

Alamo Drafthouse Cinema is seeking to move its headquarters to the Baker Center, one of 40 bids and proposals for 10 of the Austin school district’s surplus properties that remain in negotiations. Baker, a former school built in 1911, had a minimum bid of $10.6 million. Alamo was among the six bidders, and one of three (including the city) that...
HAPPENING TODAY: UT stabbing suspect to appear in court
HAPPENING TODAY: UT stabbing suspect to appear in court

University of Texas stabbing suspect Kendrex White is scheduled to appear in court on Thursday afternoon to address matters in his murder case. Court documents do not give reason for the 1:30 p.m. hearing. A prosecutor who is working on the case declined comment Thursday. White, a 21-year-old biology student, is accused of killing 19-year-old Harrison...
More Stories