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Ill. Eavesdropping Law Still Unconstitutional, State Atty Unaware

By Gabriella Khorasanee, JD | Last updated on

Been there, done that.

At least we thought so when it came to Illinois' controversial eavesdropping statute. In May of last year, the Seventh Circuit held that the Illinois eavesdropping law was unconstitutional, and likely violated the First Amendment as applied to "recordings of public officials doing the public's business in public and regardless of whether the recording is open or surreptitious."

The Supreme Court denied cert, so we for now, the Seventh Circuit's ruling is the law in Illinois. However, Illinois State's Attorney, for Morgan County, Robert Bonjean apparently didn't get the memo.

Randy Newingham's organization, Police Abuse Reporting, had received complaints that police officers were "using golf carts for official business," the Journal-Courier reports. After showing police a conversation he recorded with an on-duty officer driving a golf cart, Newingham's cell phone was confiscated last week. Shortly after making the recording, Newingham went to the police department to request information pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act, to find out when the golf carts were purchased. Police confiscated Newingham's phone and questioned him. The next day, his phone was returned.

Bonjean stated: "We'll review those reports and we'll continue to monitor the decision from the Seventh Circuit ... I don't foresee myself making any blanket decision, just taking it on a case-by-case basis," reports

The problem is, the Seventh has already made a "blanket decision" -- at least with regard to public officials, in public, doing public business. So, we're not really sure what there is to monitor.

Bonjean is not alone in his ignorance. Police Chief Tony Grootens contends that Newingham was ignorant of the law, when it appears that Morgan County officials are not aware of the law. The Journal-Courier reports that Grootens stated:

Believe me, [the State's Attorney's Office is] busy enough ... There's more pressing things on their plate right now than to go with that. I already took care of i .... told him not to be doing it. He honestly thought he was OK to do it, so now if he continues to do it, I can't tell you that he certainly won't be arrested.

It seems like Morgan County needs to be brought up to speed on the Seventh Circuit decision and its applicability to them. Otherwise, we may be experiencing a bad case of déjà vu all over again.

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