BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – Known by his tens of thousands of YouTube fans as “SoloYaker” and “The Armed Fisherman,” 41-year-old Michael Taylor was arrested in late March for allegedly illegally recording a phone call with a Brevard Parks and Recreation employee. Last week he was notified that the State Attorney filed no information in the case.
“It’s always important to record your public officials so you have a record of what they are saying to citizens,” Taylor told FLORIDA TODAY Monday. “Whether it’s a conversation or a police interaction, the camera doesn’t lie.”
Taylor’s case in Brevard stems from a June 2020 incident when he was served a trespass warning while fishing, and open carrying an AR-15 style pistol and a Glock 23 handgun at Parrish Park by the Max Brewer Bridge in Titusville. Titusville Police had responded to citizens concerned at the sight of Taylor with his weapons. After calling an FWC officer to the scene and checking all of Taylor’s licenses, police seemingly resorted to issuing the trespass to get him to leave, according to News 6 partners Florida Today.
Taylor complied with the trespass and successfully challenged it and had it removed. It is legal to open carry firearms in Florida while hunting or fishing.
It is not uncommon for gun-rights activists on YouTube to record themselves open carrying guns while fishing, expecting that police will be called to the scene and record the resulting interaction.
While critics decry the practice as an attention-seeking spectacle, the activists maintain they are fulfilling an important civic task of testing local law enforcement’s knowledge of gun laws. The practice is also known as doing a Second Amendment “audit.” The “auditor” community spans the political spectrum and includes more than just gun rights activists.
However, Taylor wanted to be sure he could return to the park and open-carry without incident, and made calls to the officials asking for some kind of written guarantee that the trespass warning had been lifted. Taylor recorded all his interactions, including a phone call with a Parks and Recreation official. At no point during the recording posted to YouTube does Taylor ask for consent to record, as required under Florida Law. The official being recorded also told investigators he was never asked for consent.
Titusville Police subsequently investigated the matter and obtained a warrant for Taylor who was arrested on March 25 for violating Florida’s wiretapping statute, a third-degree felony. Taylor was released after posting $2,000 bond.
Shortly after his release Taylor told FLORIDA TODAY that he intended to fight the charges and said case law was in his favor. Taylor’s fans and some fellow YouTubers reacted to his arrest with outrage, with some calling it “retaliation” for Taylor’s videos.
In January 2021, Taylor had given Titusville Police and Brevard Parks and Recreation notice of intent to sue for violating his rights.
“They violated my rights and they didn’t care,” he said. He declined to say whether he would pursue the lawsuits.
Frank LoMonte, a freedom of information law expert at University of Florida, said that while most interactions with public officials can be freely recorded, a phone call with just one person would still require consent.
“Whether the recording can be grounds for arrest and prosecution depends entirely on the circumstances and whether the conversation could be regarded as a private conversation. A telephone call between two or three people is generally regarded as a private conversation that Florida law requires consent to record,” LoMonte wrote in an email.
“There is good First Amendment case law saying that it’s not a punishable offense to record a police officer doing police business on a public roadway because there is no expectation of privacy in that space. But a phone conversation is quite a bit different from a roadside traffic stop.”
The no information notice, filed April 27, effectively means the state attorney is opting not to pursue the arresting charges. Taylor wants to know why. “What’s their position on this?” he asked “I want to know definitively if I’m going to be left alone.”
State Attorney Phil Archer’s Office did not respond to calls and emails since Monday. Technically a no information filing leaves open the possibility for prosecution in the future until the statute of limitations runs out.
A Titusville Police spokesperson said Wednesday the agency had no comment.
Taylor’s experience with Brevard County justice isn’t his only brush with the law. The Port St. Lucie resident has faced arrests and charges before. Just this month, he said, an open carry case against him was dropped stemming from when he went fishing, guns in tow, in Bal Harbour, near Miami Beach. He said he “for sure” will sue the authorities in Bal Harbour.
For now, Taylor intends to keep doing what he’s doing. “I’m going to continue doing what I’m doing ... the Second Amendment and government accountability.”