Illinois Prosecutor Brings Felony Eavesdropping Charges Against 13-Year-Old Who Recorded His Conversation With School Administrators
from the no-crime-too-small dept
One of Illinois’ most-abused laws continues to be abused. For years, cops used the state’s eavesdropping laws to arrest citizens who attempted to record them. This practice finally stopped when three consecutive courts — including a federal appeals court — ruled the law was unconstitutional when applied to target citizens recording public servants.
This may have led to the end of bullshit arrests from cops who didn’t like being observed while they worked, but it’s still being used by government officials to punish people they don’t like. Illinois Policy reports a 13-year-old student is facing felony charges for recording a meeting between him and two school administrators.
On Feb. 16, 2018, [Paul] Boron was called to the principal’s office at Manteno Middle School after failing to attend a number of detentions. Before meeting Principal David Conrad and Assistant Principal Nathan Short, he began recording audio on his cellphone.
Boron said he argued with Conrad and Short for approximately 10 minutes in the reception area of the school secretary’s office, with the door open to the hallway. When Boron told Conrad and Short he was recording, Conrad allegedly told Boron he was committing a felony and promptly ended the conversation.
Principal Conrad sure knows his local statutes. He turned Boron in to law enforcement, which apparently decided to go ahead and process the paperwork, rather than tell Conrad to stop acting like a child. This led to prosecutors being just as unwilling to be the adults in the room.
In his petition to bring the charge, Kankakee County Assistant State’s Attorney Mark Laws wrote that Boron on Feb. 16 “used a cellphone to surreptitiously record a private conversation between the minor and school officials without consent of all parties.”
The law forbids recordings without all parties’ consent. It would seem that the school officials’ refusal to discuss anything further once they were informed they were being recorded should have been enough. The conversation was ended, along with the recording. If they were concerned they said something they shouldn’t have during the previous ten minutes, maybe should have restrained themselves during the argument, rather than ruin a 13-year-old’s life with a bad law Illinois legislators refuse to rewrite. Given how often this law is used to protect the powerful, it’s hardly surprising legislators haven’t expressed a serious interest in fixing it.
As it stands now, the law relies on a “reasonable expectation of privacy” to determine whether recordings without the consent of all parties are illegal. A conversation in a school’s reception area hardly seems to be the place where privacy would be expected. Unfortunately, the law doesn’t actually say recordings in ostensibly public areas are legal. This was the legislature’s response to multiple court rulings declaring the old law unconstitutional. This may have made most recordings of police officers legal, but it still makes lots of recordings of public officials — like school administrators — a felony.
For a 13-year-old, this is a huge problem. This places his recording of his conversation with school officials on the same level as aggravated assault and stalking. It comes with a minimum prison sentence of one year. The reaction by school officials is petty and vindictive and only draws more attention to the recording at issue. If these officials are willing to subject a student to a felony prosecution to keep the conversation from being made public, what sort of things were said by the supposed adults in the room?
Anyone further down the line — from local law enforcement to the county prosecutor — could have put a stop to this chain of events but they all chose not to. The cops may feel they had no choice but to follow up, but the “prosecutorial discretion” lauded most frequently by those who rarely exercise it (prosecutors) is, once again, nowhere to be found.