Civil Liberties

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.