Illinois County Attorney Says He'll Prosecute No-Taping-Cops Law Declared Unconstitutional on "Case by Case Basis"

Morgan County, Illinois, State's Attorney Robert Bonjean a little confused about what it means when a court declares a law unconstitutional, reports the Jacksonville, Illinois, Courier-Journal:

A Jacksonville man who had his phone seized for recording an on-duty police officer is not likely to be charged under the state’s controversial eavesdropping law.

Morgan County State’s Attorney Robert Bonjean said Monday that he is not anticipating prosecuting an eavesdropping charge against Randy Newingham — at least not at this time.

For the public at large, this does not mean that recording on-duty officers will never be prosecuted in Morgan County.

“We’ll review those reports and we’ll continue to monitor the decision from the 7th Circuit court,” Bonjean said. “I don’t foresee myself making any blanket decision, just taking it on a case by case basis.”

Gee, what more is still up in the air about that decision, declaring the law which Bonjean will enforce on a "case-by-case basis" unconstitutional? Nothing at all.

Late last year, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed a ruling to stand in the Illinois 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that video recording an on-duty police officer was protected by the Constitution and exempt from eavesdropping laws, which were placed on the books in the 1960s....

“Quite honestly, I haven’t made a decision,” Bonjean said. “Officially I’ve [indicated] to [Police Chief Tony Grootens] that I won’t file charges. But technically it’s a felony charge, so I have three years from the date of the offense to file a charge.”

"Technically" it's an unconstitutional law, Mr. Bonjean. And yet Police Chief Tony Grootens says it was the arrested citizen who is ignorant of the law.

Grootens said he believed that Newingham was sincerely ignorant of the law.

“Believe me, [the State’s Attorney’s Office is] busy enough,” Grootens said. “There’s more pressing things on their plate right now than to go with that. I already took care of it. … 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.”

Newingham had his cellphone confiscated Wednesday after he showed police a recording he had made of himself having a conversation with an on-duty officer on a golf cart.

He made the recording to follow up on reports he had received to his organization, Police Abuse Reporting, that officers were using golf carts for police business.

While at the police department to submit a Freedom of Information Act request seeking the purchase date of the vehicles, Newingham’s phone was taken and he was questioned....

Nation of men, not laws!

Hat tip to Gillette-Torvik blog via Radley Balko. Radley wrote a 2011 Reason classic on the police war against citizen photography/taping.

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  • Pro Libertate||

    [Beats skull into desk.]

  • Andrew S.||

    Keep that up for another couple of hours and you might be eligible for employment as a police officer.

  • db||

    No, that's someone else's skull he keeps around for occasions like this.

  • Almanian!||

    +1 billy club to the cranium

  • Boba Fudd||

    My name is Mud, and I prefer aluminum baseball bats.

  • Gray Ghost||

    Why on God's green Earth isn't the IL Bar Association sanctioning this idiot? The friggin' Supreme Court decided not to hear the case, and your federal circuit court told you to stop doing that shit. How much clearer do they need to be?

    I mean, I know the reason the BA doesn't give a shit. He's paid his Bar dues, he's taken all his CLE, he doesn't have an IOLTA account, and he presumably communicates with his client: so what does the BA have to hang on him? /sarcasm

    But still.

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    We need to get him to sleep with a victim. Then the Bar will care.

  • Ted S.||

    I hope that's Bonjean's or Grootens' skull you're beating into the desk.

  • Ted S.||

    [Beats skull into desk.]

    So that's the loud, hollow sound I hear!

  • sarcasmic||

    Under rule of law the law applies equally to everyone.

    Under rule of man there is a set of laws for the political aristocracy, a set of laws for the knighted class, and another set of laws for the peasantry.

    The costumes have changed, but the song remains the same.

  • ||

    "But technically it’s a felony charge, so I have three years from the date of the offense to file a charge.”

    He added "And who knows, maybe in the next 3 years we'll manage to get that decision overturned and I can go back to terrorizing journo...I mean delivering justice to these backyard terrorists."

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Public Filmer One: "You can't do this. Laws against recording police got declared unconstitutional!"
    Public Filmer Two: "It went out on the radio."
    Robert Bonjean: "Is that right? Well, we ain't got a radio."

  • Killazontherun||

    Yeah, but I go a republic if I can keep it, and odds on, better aim.

  • anon||

    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.”

    RESPECT MY AUTHORITAH!

  • ||

    Newingham had his cellphone confiscated Wednesday after he showed police a recording he had made of himself having a conversation with an on-duty officer on a golf cart.

    Going to the police with a video of police, complaining about police, is a great way to ask for a billy club to go off upside the head.

    I assume his impression of the police comes primarily from watching TV crime shows and media interviews of police chiefs.

  • ||

    He made the recording to follow up on reports he had received to his organization, Police Abuse Reporting, that officers were using golf carts for police business.

    I guess not. :) He's either a brave soul, or he has too little to live for. I have a wife and kids. I just hope they leave my ass alone.

    Sure, I'll film them in secret, in case something happens, but I'm not running up to police officers to show off my photography.

  • Jerry on the boat||

    Planning on running for office soon I guess.

  • ||

    I'd like to thank Illinois for consistently working so hard to ensure that California is not the worst state in the country when it comes to our politicians and bureaucrats.

  • Juice||

    What are NY and NJ? Chopped liver?

  • Slammer||

    " we’ll continue to monitor the decision"

    How about you OBEY the decision? Asshole.

  • Brett L||

    Surely this is a disqualification from office, right. Automatic 10 years in prison surrounded by the men he put there?

  • ||

    What are the penalties for attempting to prosecute someone on an unconstitutional law?

    Contempt of court?

  • sarcasmic||

    Since the cops, prosecutors, judges and jailers are all on the same team, I imagine the penalty is a paid vacation to Jamaica or something.

  • Paul.||

    The same penalties for beating up an unarmed woman, sitting in a chair while her infant looks on.

  • Almanian!||

    But she was SHOPLIFTING, so UTTERLY DIFFERENT.

    Plus - she deserved it.

    /derp

  • John||

    Technically, he should lose his immunity and be personally liable. If the law is clearly established, and this one clearly is, and the prosecutor or cop violates it, they are personally liable for doing so.

    This guy will never bring one of these cases. But he won't say that because he wants to intimidate people.

  • R C Dean||

    Malicous prosecution, perhaps, although I've only run into that in a civil context, and I believe its a tort, not a criminal offense.

    Still, it would make for an interesting trial. Personally, I'd pay to get to do the examination of the idiot DA.

    "Did you go to law school?"

    "Did you pass?"

    etc.

  • db||

    So let me ask this:

    When a high court invalidates a law does someone from the legislature or somewhere go and actually edit out the text that was invalidated, or does it sit there, waiting like a forgotten land mine for some future cop or prosecutor to use one someone else? Obviously, the criminal code is so complex that no single person could have read and understood it all, therefore, if the text is there it will be used and hopefully the next judge will know it's been invalidated.

    Just a question out of my ignorance of these processes in the law.

  • ||

    AFIAK, it just sits there. The legislature has to specifically repeal it.

    But that's no excuse for ignoring case law.

  • db||

    Well, yes, it's no excuse, but there have to be cases that get prosecuted and make it past the first level of courts based on invalidated law. To imagine otherwise would be to believe that prosecutors' and local judges' research departments are impeccable.

    If a case were prosecuted on invalid law, what are the real penalties for doing so? For the prosecutor, for the judge? The downside is obvious for the defendant--money and time wasted on defending himself. I would hope that any sort of false prosecution would involve paying all defendant's court costs plus some amount for wasted time, damage to reputation, etc.

  • DaveSs||

    I suspect it would be a Section 1983 violation which if I understand correctly the state actors lose their immunity and become personally liable.

    http://www.constitution.org/br.....2-1983.htm

  • Paul.||

    When a high court invalidates a law does someone from the legislature or somewhere go and actually edit out the text that was invalidated, or does it sit there, waiting like a forgotten land mine for some future cop

    Case by case basis, db, CASE BY CASE BASIS! Does no one read the articles?

  • prolefeed||

    When a high court invalidates a law does someone from the legislature or somewhere go and actually edit out the text that was invalidated, or does it sit there, waiting like a forgotten land mine for some future cop or prosecutor to use one someone else?

    Whatever the legislature writes stays on the books until repealed, or revised in an attempt to make it pass court muster, or maybe just adminstrative rules revised to pretend they've fixed the problem. Depends on the legislature -- if the law was popular, a lot of elected officials may not want to go on record in favor of repealing it.

    In Hawaii, laws declared unconstitutional often wind up with a footnote in the statute book noting this.

  • db||

    So basically, Congress could pass a law blatantly violating the Constitution, the President could sign it, people could be prosecuted under it, eventually appealing up to the Supreme Court if necessary, win their case, and the law would still be published in the USC?

    I'm glad we live in a country where the folks in charge are so trustworthy.

  • Doctor Whom||

    In the annotated code of every state with whose legal system I'm at all familiar, the text that was invalidated stays in the code until the legislature explicitly repeals it, but an annotation states that that section or part of it has been held unconstitutional and cites the case in which that happened.

  • R C Dean||

    This right here.

  • Ken Shultz||

    I suppose it's like with any other crime. The prosecutor can't be charged with civil rights violations until he actually charges someone with a non-crime--that's when the fit hits the shan.

    Meanwhile, I bet this guy is looking for an endorsement from the police union come the next election. I wish fewer people saw being endorsed by the cops' union as necessarily and always a good thing.

  • plumbertom||

    A corrupt prosecutor giving the go ahead to police to seize and potentiality destroy recordings of their wrongdoing.
    Happened in Bakersfield Ca. recently when phones with video that clearly showed the murder of an inocent person by police wete siezed and the video erased.

  • sarcasmic||

    I'm sure it happens everyday somewhere in this free nation of ours.

  • ||

    It amuses me no end when people think we actually live under rule of law. That they buy into that complete fiction and therefore accept the rule of man, but under another name that they think makes it not rule of man. And that works out perfectly for the rulers.

  • sarcasmic||

    It's the Divine Right of Kings wrapped up into a new package, where instead of their power being derived from God it is derived from The Law and instead of serving the King the knighted class serves the Public.

    Same story, different costumes.

  • Paul.||

    Compromises, good/evil, only half the party profits etc.

  • NeonCat||

    Officer safety! These recording devices could be stealing their souls!

  • Curtisls87||

    To paraphrase the idiots going along with the NSA snooping, "if the cops aren't doing anything wrong, then they shouldn't care if they're being recorded."

    See, it doesn't seem to work in reverse...

  • sarcasmic||

    The cops can't do anything wrong because they have the Public Trust, therefor there is no need to record them.

    Totality of the circs, etc.

  • KDN||

    Working class heroes, bro.

  • Hyperion||

    OT:

    Worlds friendliest and unfriendliest cities.

    Worlds friendliest and unfriendliest cities

    I am totally shocked that 2 of the 10 most unfriendliest cities in the world, are in New Jersey, shocked I tell you!

  • John||

    Newark beats out Islamabad. Wow.

  • KDN||

    This list is nonsense. Newark isn't even the unfriendliest city in Jersey.

  • KDN||

    Newark, New Jersey was voted the worst, with one reader saying she "ran into a lot of rude people there" and others arguing the only reason to visit was for a cheap stopover on the way to somewhere better.

    Lady, those aren't citizens of Newark. They're airport employees.

  • anon||

    Yeah, this list is bullshit. NYC beats Newark 2:1. And Atlantic City is actually not a complete shithole.

    Camden, on the other hand, I believe could top that list. Or Detroit. Flip a coin; I've never been to Detroit though.

  • Hyperion||

    I've been to Detroit. I don't think the list is BS at all. The most obnoxious and rude people I have ever met in my life have all been from NE USA, especially NJ, NY, and MA.

  • KDN||

    I'm not disputing that NJ is an unfriendly place. I live here, the people are generally terrible. But people in Newark aren't actively rude, even the hood rats will tell you how to get the fuck off Clinton Hill if you roll down the window to ask.

    Cleveland, Boston, and Seaside are the only places I've been where people arbitrarily tried to pick a fight with me or my wife (and we're both rather reserved). They're at the top of my list.

  • anon||

    Weird, I spent a good part of my youth in South Jersey. Too friendly for me.

    Fuckers never shut up; stop and get some gas and the attendant will tell you his whole fucking life story.

  • Lady Bertrum||

    Fuck you asshole. (Sorry, just trying to live up to the stereotype.)

  • Hyperion||

    I'll try to imagine you saying that in a shrill NJ accent (;

  • anon||

    "ey, Ey! Fock Yoo, Ahsshole!"

  • Calidissident||

    I've never been to the northeast, but most of the people I've met from there have been pretty cool and friendly. But I do realize I don't exactly have a representative sample, as most of the people I've met from there have been kids who've come here to the West Coast to go to college.

  • Almanian!||

    Yeah, people in Detroit are mostly pretty nice in my experience. The place is an absolute hellhole, but the people I've met in public have tended to be cool.

    Newark, on the other hand....with apologies to barfman...

    *barf*

  • Hyperion||

    I didn't find people in Detroit or most of MI, unfriendly.

    Indiana is worse, the northern part that is, and Chicago.

    But nowhere is like the NE for unfriendly and obnoxious, in my experience.

  • Finrod||

    Urban northwest Indiana is indistinguishable from Chicago, really. Once you get out into the rural areas it's completely different.

  • Lady Bertrum||

    I totally believe Newark *airport* is the most unfriendly. I flew from Newark to Charlotte and back last week. The attitude shift was remarkable.

  • KDN||

    Not just attitude, but total inefficiency. I'll drive the extra 20 minutes and pay money to park so I can fly out of Philly, thank you very much.

  • Hyperion||

    Have you ever been to MIA on an international connection? Gawd, the DHS goons there are the worst I have ever seen, I hate that airport. Next time I go on an international flight, I am NOT going through there, no matter how much more expensive or further I have to fly.

  • Lady Bertrum||

    Is MIA Miami? I always fly from Newark because I'm really close and I get a ride to/from.

    I flew to London not to long ago and Heathrow is so profoundly better than EWR it nearly made me cry. Cleaner, more efficient, friendlier, better organized.

  • ||

    Last time I had to connect though LHR, it took 4 hours because of the lines. Missed my flight, of course. I hate LHR with a passion.

    Schipol is wonderful.

  • ||

    And Atlantic City isn't unfriendly, it's just depressing as hell. Plus New Haven? Whaaa?

  • KDN||

    I'm told that Yalie's are known for their boorish manners.

  • ||

    No, that's Brown you're thinking of. Those rude fuckers!

  • Juice||

    Northerners have no idea how fucking rude they are.

  • Hyperion||

    I always just thought that it was because they are always pizzed about how crappy the climate is where they live.

    People are a lot more friendly in the south, in my experience. And I doubt I'm the only one who thinks that.

  • Lady Bertrum||

    Southerners have no idea how fucking slow-witted they are. We're rude because we're smarter than you, and your huckleberry manners are insipid. (Not really. I like the South, at least the bits I've seen.)

  • KPres||

    Both stereotypes are true.

  • Whahappan?||

    Yep, born and bred in central NJ, and we're rude, sarcastic assholes. But southerners, as friendly as they are, are fucking annoyingly slow. I appreciate both.

  • The Bearded Hobbit||

    NYC has this reputation of being a bunch of assholes, and I was ready for this on our visit several years ago.

    Except, that it wasn't necessarily true.

    We were getting lunch at a deli and the gal behind the counter went, "Whatda want"

    I pointed out that I was a Hick from the Sticks and didn't quite understand their menu system. Instantly, the mask came off and she became a considerate human being.

    My impression (being a Hick from the Sticks) is that much of the assholiness of many places is a barrier put up to to deal with assholes. Treat people nicely and, in my experience, people will treat you a lot nicer.

    ... Hobbit

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Well, thank you so much for ruining a perfectly good stereotype!

  • anon||

    What kind of bullshit is it that you can wait 3 years before charging someone with a felony?

  • John||

    Because maybe the evidence doesn't surface for that long? Felonies are supposed to be serious crimes. If it takes a couple of years to put the pieces together for murder, should you not be able to charge it?

  • Coeus||

    Felonies are supposed to be serious crimes.

    Those were the days.

  • anon||

    Because maybe the evidence doesn't surface for that long? Felonies are supposed to be serious crimes. If it takes a couple of years to put the pieces together for murder, should you not be able to charge it?

    Well yeah, but this guy was at the police station. I mean, the cop witnessed him commit this "felony."

    It just seems to me that if you know all the facts about the case, you should make a decision of whether to charge them or not immediately, not "meh lets wait 3 years see if he does anything else we can drag this up and beat him over the head with it."

  • Bryan C||

    If the activity was not a felony at the time it happened, then waiting for three years won't make it into a felony.

  • Raston Bot||

    hilarious commentary at GT:

    Let me help you out, Mr. Bonjean: the 7th Circuit made the blanket decision for you. When a federal circuit court finds a state law unconstitutional, that ruling is—well, it's kind of like a magical blanket that gets put over the entire state, and that blanket makes the law in question unconstitutional everywhere it touches.

  • Almanian!||

    Typical - about what I'd expect from a Teathuglican-anarchist LIBERTARDIAN.

    Also ROADZ AND SOMALIA!

    Why do you all hate law and order?

  • Rich||

    "I told him not to be doing it."

    Uhh ... RACIST!

  • Almanian!||

    We have to break the law to discover what's in it. No, wait...

    We need to pass the law because FUCK YOU, THAT'S WHY. No...shit...um...

    If you've done nothing unlawful, you're probably not a cop...no...

    Crap...

  • Dr. Frankenstein||

    Ignorance of the lack of law is no excuse.

  • MappRapp||

    Yeah, that makes a lot of sense dude.

    www.Mega-Anon.tk

  • Ernie Menard||

    What Bonjean could mean is that he'll only prosecute those defendants that represent themselves against a wire tapping charge for recording police in public.

    It would be an easy case to put in the win column as pro se defendants are much more likely to make mistakes of form, relieving the judge of the necessity of considering that the wire taping statute as applied to police officers being recorded while doing their duty in a public place has been declared unconstitutional by a higher court.

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