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Marijuana Activist Who Live-Streamed Meeting With Congressional Staffer Charged With ‘Illegal Wiretap'

Rep. Andy Harris's (R-Md.) office refuses to say whether the congressman supports prosecution of the young activist.

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/NewscomBill Clark/CQ Roll Call/NewscomA marijuana activist who met with a staffer for Rep. Andy Harris (R–Md.) in the congressman's office last year and streamed the meeting to Facebook Live has been charged with making an "illegal wiretap," according to the Maryland State Prosecutor's office.

In October 2018, 20-year-old Jake Burdett was attending a medical marijuana protest organized by the advocacy group Maryland Marijuana Justice outside Harris' office in Salisbury, prosecutors said in a news release. Burdett and several other protesters were invited to meet with one of Harris' staffers in that staffer's office. The staffer informed the activists they could not record in the office, but Burdett allegedly streamed the meeting to Facebook Live anyway.

Unfortunately for Burdett, Maryland is an all-parties consent state, meaning it's illegal for one party to record a meeting unless the other parties say it's OK. "We need to ensure people are respecting boundaries set by Maryland's wiretapping law," State Prosecutor Emmet Davitt said in a statement. Burdett was thus charged last week with "the illegal recording of the Congressional Staffer and the illegal distribution of that recording," according to the news release.

While Burdett knew he did not have consent, he did not know that recording anyway would be illegal, claims another pro-cannabis reform group, DC Marijuana Justice, in a press release. Burdett, who plans to plead guilty, also says he apologized to the staffer and deleted the recording after realizing it was illegal.

"This sort of thing happens all the time in Maryland, but it is very rare for someone to actually press charges about it, and it saddens me that Rep. Harris has decided to needlessly drop the hammer to make an example out of me over a mistake I quickly corrected and apologized for," Burdett said in an email to the Salisbury Daily Times. "I also find it odd that we, as citizens and constituents, are not allowed to record conversations with paid staffers by public officials in a taxpayer-funded space."

When asked by Reason if Harris pushed for Burdett to be charged, a Harris spokesperson declined to comment.

Photo Credit: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Newscom

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  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    I believe there's actually a Maryland Wiretapping Law Good/Maryland Wiretapping Law Bad oscillation wave.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Congressional offices should be livestreamed 24/7 as a matter of course.

  • Juice||

    Damned straight.

  • Rich||

    How about 24/7 bodycams for congresscreatures themselves?

  • Juice||

    What wire? I tapped no wire.

  • Juice||

    he did not know that recording anyway would be illegal

    That defense works for the cops, not the little people.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    How so?

  • Juice||

    Heien v North Carolina

  • Rich||

    When asked by Reason if Harris pushed for Burdett to be charged, a Harris spokesperson declined to comment.

    Ima guess "yes". Andy's, um, no fan of the MJ.

  • Sometimes a Great Notion||

    To say the least, he thinks it is a dangerous gateway drug with little to no medicinal value and worked to stop DC from legalizing it. All though to be fair he has co sponsor legislation to reclassify weed so it can be properly studied so at least he isn't a complete ass.

    All this is from my memory from a few years back, so forgive me if he has "evolved".

  • Ordinary Person||

    So everytime a person makes a video they have to find every person they recorded to get their permission? I'm thinking of family vacations where people walk around with cameras recording the experience.

  • rchive||

    I think if you're standing on a public street corner or something, they assume you're implying consent to be recorded. We can't reasonably be expect everyone in the world to never record anything in public. This case seems to be about private spaces, like an individual's office.

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