A man claims a Southlake officer assaulted him for exercising his rights to film police in action
A 55-year-old Fort Worth woman who recorded and posted on YouTube a video of herself entering a county building and pulling up her YouTube channel on a computer was arrested Monday night, accused of a computer security breach.
Carolyn Rodriguez was conducting what’s known as a First Amendment audit. The audits, done by activists, test constitutional rights often by photographing or recording video in public spaces like inside police stations and government buildings, often to the chagrin of law enforcement.
Rodriguez posts her videos on her YouTube Channel, Carolina in Fort Worth. She had more than 6,600 subscribers to her channel as of Tuesday morning.
“This channel is dedicated to educating everyone on the rights they have and exposing those who want to take them. Never JUST OBEY!,” her YouTube channel states under the “about” description.
In the video that led to her arrest, titled “Fort Worth: I have a job!” and posted on Thursday, Rodriguez can be seen entering into the parking lot of the county’s Facilities Management construction office in north Fort Worth, pointing out cars and trucks that she believes are undercover sheriff’s vehicles.
“No signs that say ‘Do not enter’ so we’re going to go on and check it out,” she narrates in the video.
Rodriguez then enters into the construction office, telling viewers that she plans to inquire about what is inside a second building on the property with the words “Tarrant County Sheriff’s” painted on its garage door. She can be heard repeatedly calling out “Hello” and “Anybody here?” as she meandered through the building but found no one inside.
“Well, I guess we’ll just have to make ourselves at home,” Rodriguez can be heard saying on the video.
She then takes a seat and briefly puts her feet up on a desk, before getting on a computer and pulling up her YouTube channel.
“Look, they already subscribe to me,” she remarked.
She then writes on a piece of paper, “CAROLINA IN FT WORTH WAS HERE!” and leaves out the front door, laughing.
“Oh my goodness. Did that just happen? Nah. Did it? It did. It just happened,” a giddy Rodriguez tells viewers. “I was just going to walk in there and ask them what this was about over here and nobody was there. My tax dollars at work.”
She then starts to leave the parking lot.
“Let’s go back to the car. They might have cameras here,” Rodriguez can be heard saying. “No, they don’t have cameras here or I would have already been busted, wouldn’t I?”
Rodriguez was arrested Monday night on a warrant accusing her of breach of computer security.
According to an arrest warrant affidavit, employees returned to the office Thursday to find Rodriguez’s note. The male employee whose computer she accessed “reviewed the video of Carolina on his computer and watched several videos uploaded by her, including the one of her accessing his computer.”
After noticing a silver Dodge Charger in some of Carolina in Fort Worth videos, two employees went outside and saw a similar Charger parked up the street from the office and took down its license plate number.
“Upon their approach, the Dodge Charger fled the area,” states the affidavit, written by Detective Mark Smith with the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office.
The car was later determined to be registered to Rodriguez’s husband.
Rodriguez remained in the Tarrant County Jail Tuesday afternoon with bail set at $750, according to jail records.
David Phillips, Director of Facilities Management for the county, said Tuesday afternoon that carpenter shop staff had left the building for a job site when Rodriguez apparently entered and made the video.
“The doors are usually locked. My staff made an honest mistake, got in a hurry, and left one door unlocked,” Phillips said in an email to the Star-Telegram. “They will be double-checking doors from here on out.”
Phillips said his staff has also been advised to make sure shared computers are locked when not in use.
“If the young lady in the video was that interested in taking a tour of our carpenter shop, next time maybe she needs to give me a call and we can setup a guided tour,” Phillips said. “Our carpenter shop staff does great work. I am very proud of them.”
Under state law, a person commits breach of computer security if he or she knowingly accesses a computer, computer network, or computer system without the effective consent of the owner. The offense is a state-jail felony — punishable by up to two years in a state jail — if the computer involved is owned by the government.