RIVERHEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A Long Island man who has been waging a one-man war against red light cameras pleaded not guilty on Friday to a host of new charges.
Ruth was arraigned on a 17-count indictment for allegedly cutting wires to red light cameras in Coram last April, WCBS 880’s Mike Xirinachs reported. He’s also accused of cutting down a red light camera.
Ruth is already charged with tampering with red light cameras in Ronkonkoma in August 2015. Ruth posted videos online of himself using a painter’s extension rod to tamper with the devices.
After videotaping 100 intersections in Suffolk County, Ruth said he believes officials shortened yellow lights at intersections with red light cameras to produce revenue. On Friday, Ruth insisted that he was not breaking any laws, saying the government installed what he called “unconstitutional” red light cameras at intersections.
“If they want to throw more charges at me when they’re the ones acting unconstitutional, that’s their line of defense,” Ruth said.
A defiant Ruth vowed to fight on in his crusade — even if it means going to jail.
“If I get sentenced to time in jail, so be it,” he said.
Ruth has called the cameras illegal and unconstitutional.
“I would say he feels very strongly about what he is doing, and this country was based on civil disobedience,” attorney Joseph Ferrante.
Following Ruth’s anti-camera stunts, opponents of the red light camera plan called for a suspension of the cameras until the county hands over accident data that shows if red-light cameras have improved public safety. It is data that AAA said it has been trying to get its hands on for a year on behalf of drivers.
Data released in April 2016 showed that at about half of the intersections with red-light cameras in Suffolk County, accidents with injuries are up. At two Commack intersections, accidents had doubled. But the report also showed that overall, total crashes involving injuries are down 4 percent at red-light camera intersections. County officials said the types of accidents that are happening and being prevented shows the cameras save lives.
Ruth believes that he will win when he arrives in court, but the real victory will come with upcoming elections.
“It’s probably going to end with re-electing the right politicians which are going to work for the people and not conspire against the people,” Ruth said.
If convicted, Ruth could face up to seven years in prison and be forced to pay $85,000 in repair costs for the damaged cameras.
He isn’t the only one battling the cameras. Robert McGrath of Mt. Sinai is using a different tactic — fighting within the law. His name is on a new class action suit against Suffolk County.
“The motivation is to do the right thing for the people of Suffolk County, and show this is unconstitutional,” he said.
The lawsuit calls the $30 administrative fee tacked onto tickets ‘unauthorized’ and his attorney claims that there is evidence the cameras are rigged.
“People may not agree with Ruth’s action, but he is correct in knowing that the engineering behind the red light cameras is wrong,” Dave Raimondo, Attorney Seeking Class Action Suit, said.
Raimondo said his experts investigating a fatal red light crash found that engineers shorten yellow lights.
“They just manipulated it slightly to make sure it’s a little bit shorter to fierce red light running, and this is what my physicist and engineer have discovered,” he said, “It’s been manipulated to increase red light running and as a result create revenue.”
Suffolk officials claim they use the “nationally accepted methodology in calculating yellow and red light clearance times” and “under home rule authority, a local government may impose fees to defray the expense,” of the program.
With the case against Ruth, and a class action suit that could both go to trial the fate of Suffolk red light cameras could ultimately be determined by the drivers of the county as jurors.
A proposal to suspend the red light camera program in Suffolk County died in committee last week.
The class action suit could extend into Nassau County which also imposes an administrative fee on red light camera tickets.