IL County Attorney Seeking To Enforce Unconstitutional Law Draws The Attention Of The ACLU

from the lack-of-blanket-statement-meets-blanket-legal-decision dept

As was recently covered here, a Morgan County, IL state's attorney by the name of Robert Bonjean declared his intentions to selectively enforce a state law declared unconstitutional by the Seventh Circuit Court.

The law in question was the 1960 Eavesdropping Law that forbade recordings without the consent of both parties. The court stated that using this statute to prevent citizens from recording police was likely unconstitutional. Shortly thereafter, a citizen (Randy Newingham) was detained for doing exactly that. Bonjean said he wouldn't issue a "blanket statement" on citizens' recordings and would take it on a "case-by-case" basis.

The local police chief, Tony Grootens, added to the mess by declaring the detained citizen was ignorant of the law governing recordings, issuing a statement that showed it was actually the chief who misunderstood the law. Bonjean then issued a low-key threat, mentioning he had three years to toy with the recording citizen by holding a pending felony charge above his head. Grootens himself suggested he might arrest Randy Newingham if he continued to record on-duty police officers.

When officials start screwing around with the Constitution, they tend to draw the attention of parties very interested in preventing this sort of abuse. Bonjean's "I do what I want" statement drew the attention of the ACLU's Illinois branch, whose senior staff counsel, Adam Schwartz, fired off a letter to the state's attorney demanding some answers.

Mr. Newingham's action--audio recording an on-duty police officer in a public place--is protected by the First Amendment. See ACLU v. Alvarez, 679 F.3d 583 (7th Cir. 2012), cert. denied, 133 S. Ct. 651 (2012). The Illinois Eavesdropping Act violates the First Amendment as applied to such audio recording. Id. This decision is controlling throughout Illinois. For your convenience, a copy of the opinion is enclosed.

By August 23rd, please advise me whether civilians in Jacksonville will face arrest, and in Morgan County will face prosecution, if they audio record on-duty police officers.
Well, that clears that up, hopefully. It's tough to say how Bonjean arrived at the conclusion that a circuit court decision affecting the entire state somehow excluded his jurisdiction, but both he and Police Chief Grootens seem to be projecting an air of almost-deliberate obtuseness about the court's decision.

Or it could be they just didn't get the memo. (Schwartz has rectified that by sending a copy of the opinion.) Sure, the Supreme Court issued its kick to the curb back in November of last year, but maybe news travels more slowly when it's news you don't want to hear.

At this point, there has been no response from either Chief Grootens or Robert Bonjean, according to the Jacksonsville Journal Courier. I would imagine any further comments will be run by a legal team rather than directly from Bonjean's or Grooten's brains to their mouths.



Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 14th, 2013 @ 4:22pm

    run by a legal team... as opposed to the attorney who made the befoundingly legally ignorant remarks in the first place.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    GeneralEmergency (profile), Aug 14th, 2013 @ 4:34pm

    Overheard...

    .


    Overheard in Robert Bonjean's office:


    "Ohhhh. THAT Illinois!"



    .

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
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    Spaceman Spiff (profile), Aug 14th, 2013 @ 5:04pm

    Let them eat a law suit!

    The person they arrested should immediately file a federal and state suit for false arrest, false imprisonment, and other civil rights violations. Let's see how long their attitude toward the Constitution remains as it is when they are hit with a multi-million dollar judgement!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
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    kenichi tanaka (profile), Aug 14th, 2013 @ 5:31pm

    The thing that bothers me about police officers harassing Americans who are recording them is why are they so against this? Surely if there are bad police officers, that the rest of the police force would want them removed from employment.

    Not only that, but these police officers are acting like they are personally liable for the lawsuits when those lawsuits and/or settlements are paid out by the city in which they are employed.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 14th, 2013 @ 5:49pm

    Re:

    If the police officers are doing nothing wrong ...
    they have nothing to fear (from the recording).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
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    StayedAtHolidayInnLastNight (profile), Aug 14th, 2013 @ 5:52pm

    Re:

    They are all bad? Is that the reason? Because if peer pressure, or the blue code or the Boy Scout Pledge or any other reason is used not to report illegal, unethical or generally bad behavior by fellow officers, the individual who does not provide the report is also BAD. No donut for cops who don't report law breakers.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 14th, 2013 @ 6:26pm

    Was threatened in McClain county in college 2006ish under same law. Actually the police just thought I was housing the video and threatened to arrest me even though I had no idea what was on it or that it existed (my roommate riding in the car of the individual who recorded the tape). I didn't have the tape and yet still was threatened with incarceration. IL = corruption

     

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  8.  
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    Dirkmaster (profile), Aug 14th, 2013 @ 7:07pm

    "It's tough to say how Bonjean arrived at the conclusion that a circuit court decision affecting the entire state somehow excluded his jurisdiction,"

    Because our federal government and it's agencies have taught them that, by example. Over and over again. Laws don't apply to government.

    What are you, new?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
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    Love the ACLU, Aug 14th, 2013 @ 7:28pm

    I'm a member :-)

    Shoudn't you be an ACLU member too? http://www.aclu.org

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 14th, 2013 @ 8:59pm

    Public servant on public property doing their job can't be recorded o.O

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 15th, 2013 @ 3:01am

    surely this is just another example of how 'Law Enforcement' seems to think that the law doesn't apply to them, unless they deem it to do so, isn't it? how many times has there been reports on these very pages of how police officers basically do as they damn well want. a recent example was the arresting of a person taking pictures whilst being 90Feet from the officers, on a public footpath. the question to ask is, if you are an officer, charged with upholding the law, should you not know the law? should you not know when you can and when you cant arrest someone, especially when there has been so much reporting of a certain aspect and procedure? those that dont bother to learn the law should not be given the job of enforcing it. and when this type of disastrous error is made, there should be punishments!

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 15th, 2013 @ 4:48am

    Wouldn't the "consent of both parties" requirement make most security video illegal? In places like stores something could be posted, but what about sidewalk surveillance cameras?

     

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  13.  
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    U the Frood, Aug 15th, 2013 @ 5:02am

    Likely unconstitutional?

    How binding is a court's claim that something is likely unconstitutional? That actually sounds like the issue still needs to be resolve definitively in another case. So while the police and attorney's probably SHOULD know better than to try to push this, it doesn't sound like they're technically out of line here.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Aug 15th, 2013 @ 7:31am

    Re: Likely unconstitutional?

    If the court actually ruled something unconstitutional, then it's binding in that court's jurisdiction unless another court overturns. When courts disagree with each other on the point, it becomes almost inevitable that the Supreme Court will eventually hear the issue.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
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    Rekrul, Aug 15th, 2013 @ 10:19am

    Re:

    The thing that bothers me about police officers harassing Americans who are recording them is why are they so against this? Surely if there are bad police officers, that the rest of the police force would want them removed from employment.

    It's an "us vs. them" situation and they feel that they have to protect their "us" from our "them" at any cost. Admitting that there are bad cops, makes them look bad, and they won't stand for that.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
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    Steve, Aug 15th, 2013 @ 11:18pm

    Ahahaha

    "Surely if they are bad police officers, that the rest of the police force would want them removed from employment."

    You're funny. It's almost as if you've never actually met one of these police officers you speak of, or have heard of the "thin blue line" and the code of silence that "good" cops are more than happy to use to protect the crooked ones.

    There aren't good cops. There are ones that are actively abusing the rights of citizens, and cops that protect them. It really is that simple.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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