A 20-year-old woman who faced 15 years in prison for recording what she believed was misconduct by two Chicago police internal-affairs investigators has been acquitted on both of the eavesdropping counts that she faced.
Tiawanda Moore used her BlackBerry to record a conversation with investigators who she says were trying to talk her into dropping her sexual harassment complaint against a patrol officer. She was charged under an obscure Illinois eavesdropping law that makes audio recording of police officers without their consent a felony offense.
In the recording, an investigator is heard explaining to Moore that she might be wasting her time with the complaint because it was basically her word against that of the patrol officer who she said had fondled her and given her his phone number.
"When we heard that, everyone [on the jury] just shook their head," a juror told the Chicago Tribune. "If what those two investigators were doing wasn't criminal, we felt it bordered on criminal, and she had the right to record it."
Illinois is one of only a few states that make it illegal to record audio of public conversations without the permission of everyone involved. If the victim is a law-enforcement officer, the potential penalty is up to 15 years in prison.
Moore's acquittal hinged on an exception in the law that allows citizens to obtain evidence through a surreptitious recording if they have a "reasonable suspicion" that a crime may be committed.
It's good news that justice was served in this particular case, but imagine the chilling effect of the law on other citizens who have to weigh the possibility of prison time before creating a record of police officers' potentially criminal actions. No BlackBerry was required to record the most serious misconduct in this story: The state's attorney decision to prosecute Moore for trying to protect herself, and the Illinois lawmakers' choice to allow this outdated and unjust statute to remain on the books.
Read more at the Chicago Tribune.
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