Judge Jails First Amendment Auditor/Cop Watcher for 180 Days

Las Vegas, Nevada, Township Justice Court Judge Ann Zimmerman presided over the criminal prosecution of Jose “Chille” DeCastro. Screenshot: Our Nevada Judges YouTube channel.

By Susan Bassi and Fred Johnson

Jose “Chille” DeCastro is a journalist known for his controversial approach to watchdogging police. He hosts a popular YouTube channel, Delete Lawz, that boasts half a million subscribers and millions of views. A self-proclaimed constitutional scholar and cop watcher, DeCastro uses foul language, his camera phone and knowledge of the law to educate the public about police misconduct.  His work has resulted in arrests, criminal prosecutions and now a 180-day jail sentence.

DeCastro’s criminal proceeding took place on March 19, 2024, before Las Vegas, Nevada, Township Justice Court Judge Ann Zimmerman. There was no jury, as criminal misdemeanor cases in Nevada carrying maximum sentences of six months or less are heard by a judge, not a jury.

Chille DeCastro’s jail calls published on YouTube. Screenshot: Our Nevada Judges YouTube Channel.

Judge Bias Revealed in Words and Demeanor

At the outset of the trial that led to DeCastro’s arrest and incarceration, Judge Ann Zimmerman confiscated DeCastro’s cell phone and ordered him to empty his pockets in a manner that would reveal any concealed recording devices. Shortly thereafter she announced she had granted two media requests, including one for a YouTube channel, Our Nevada Judges.

DeCastro complained he had to turn his cell phone over to police and was heard calling a courtroom bailiff a “pig.”  Judge Zimmerman ordered DeCastro to apologize, claiming she didn’t want to see him go to jail.

During the trial, Clark County prosecutor Agnes Botelho called Branden Bourque of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police as her only witness. Bourque testified that DeCastro had failed to comply with his order to move back 20 feet as the officer conducted a traffic stop investigation.

DeCastro’s criminal defense attorney, Michael Mee, argued federal law and public policy to assure  the public right to access and record the police. Mee argued that the police had issued an unlawful order by demanding DeCastro stay over 20 feet away from a traffic stop.

During his testimony, DeCastro explained that his YouTube channel aims to shed light on police misconduct and only features content of police officers in their official capacity.

Before sentencing, the prosecutor requested DeCastro be ordered to participate in an impulse control course, pay a $500 fine, perform community service, and be ordered to stay out of trouble in exchange for a suspended sentence. Judge Zimmerman disagreed.

DeCastro Jail Calls are being uploaded to his YouTube account.

Jailhouse Journalist

Judge Zimmerman sentenced DeCastro to 180 days in jail, after repeatedly expressing her opinions about DeCastro and his work. At one point the judge stated she believed DeCastro “wanted to get arrested.”

“He welcomes this as it helps his YouTube Channel. He called the officers here in my courtroom ‘pigs,’ so, apparently, he hates every law enforcement officer in the United States.”

Judge Zimmerman accused DeCastro of seeking arrest to boost his YouTube channel and of disrespecting law enforcement. In response, DeCastro gave her a thumbs up, prompting the judge to order his immediate arrest and 180-day incarceration.

DeCastro has continued to communicate with his audience through YouTube, despite his incarceration. In recorded jail calls made in less than two weeks after his courtroom arrest, he has been describing jail conditions and the conduct of prison guards.

Despite criticism from police unions, and social media trolls, DeCastro’s reporting on the inner workings of local police, courts, and the jail system, continues to provide valuable information to the public.

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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