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Christopher Drew, a 60-year-old school teacher, faces 15 years in prison for taping a conversation he had with a police officer.  (Source: José Moré/Chicago News Cooperative)

The Chicago police had 10,000 complaints of brutality, assault, and other wrong-doing filed against them between 2002 and 2004.  (Source: AFP/Getty Images)

  (Source: OBEY Images)
Class 1 Felony of recording a conversation is just below the prison time you'd spend for murder

We've often written on the disconnect between current laws and the reality of the digital age.  When a person gets charged over a million dollars for pirating and sharing a few songs, and a robber stealing a dozen CDs might have to a pay a few hundred in fines, the system can seem incredibly flawed at times.

Another example of this disconnect that has recently been brought into sharp focus include laws that police are using to try to prosecute those that digitally record their actions.  We already covered how police in some areas can arrest you, if you videotape or photograph them in a public or private setting.  Well, in some areas they can arrest you for even recording an audio conversation.

Illinois is one of the states with the toughest laws against audiotaping a conversation between you and another party without their knowledge.  The law [text] states that you can face up to 15 years in prison for committing the offense. 

Christopher Drew, a 60-year-old artist and teacher living in Chicago, is facing the charge after audio taping a conversation he had with the police.  In an interview with The New York Times, he remarks on his potential 15 years of hard prison time, "That's one step below attempted murder."

He adds, "Before they arrested me for it. I didn’t even know there was a law about eavesdropping. I wasn’t trying to sue anybody. I just wanted somebody to know what had happened to me."

He is not alone.  Other Chicago residents, including Tiawanda Moore, a 20-year-old former stripper, face similar charges.  They all have one thing in common -- their charges follow audio taping conversations with police.  The law is seldom applied in other situations – in fact, most don't even know it exists.  The law even makes it a lesser offense to tape a civilian once (a Class 4 felony) or twice (a Class 3 felony), versus taping a law enforcement officer (a Class 1 felony).

Ms. Moore's story is among the most alarming.  She is being charged with the Class 1 felony of eavesdropping using a digital device after recording on her Blackberry a conversation she had with two internal affairs officers.  The conversation occurred during her attempt to report a separate police officer for sexual harassment.  Now she's set for a February 7 trial in Cook County Criminal Court and may spend more than a decade in prison.

Contrast this state of affairs with the fact that Chicago police officers have one of the most stained reputations for police brutality.  According to a 2007 CNN report, 10,000 complaints -- many of them involving brutality and assault -- were filed between 2002 and 2004.  

Along with laws against video taping police in public, the measures against video and audio taping police encounters seem like a concerted effort to chain the hands of the citizenry and prevent them from reporting misconduct and wrongdoing.  Without direct evidence, claims are often discarded and laughed out of court.

The Illinois branch of the American Civil Liberties Union (A.C.L.U.) fought the law -- it has sued the state of Illinois twice -- but the law won.  Its case, which asserted that the eavesdropping law violates the First Amendment and hinders citizens from monitoring the public behavior of police officers and other officials, has been thrown out of court twice.  

Mark Donahue, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, said his organization cheered the decision, stating that he "absolutely supports" throwing those who tape police officers behind bars.

He complains that citizens monitoring police activities for wrongdoing might "affect how an officer does his job on the street."

As Ms. Moore and Mr. Drew contemplate on what their life might be like spending the next decade and a half on a prison cot, many in other states face similar situations.  Massachusetts and Oregon both make it illegal to digitally record (i.e. "eavesdrop") on an officer.  And a number of states are considering similar legislation.



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RE: Ha
By walk2k on 1/24/2011 3:54:00 PM , Rating: 5
video a policeman? GO TO JAIL!!

bring a M16 to a town hall meeting? oh no that's fine.


RE: Ha
By AssBall on 1/24/2011 6:00:06 PM , Rating: 1
It wouldn't hurt my feelings if everyone in Chicago went to jail.


RE: Ha
By Samus on 1/24/2011 9:18:59 PM , Rating: 5
I lived in Chicago for years. The corruption and lawlessness is ridiculous. Traffic moving violations virtually don't exist, the police don't even write DUI's because the paperwork is too time consuming. A lot of the time they are drunk themselves. The entire city is unbelievably corrupt from top to bottom. The racism is rampant as well. If you're a middle-aged white male like myself, the police will never bother you, no matter what traffic laws, drug laws, or any other non-violent laws you violate. If you're a black teenager, I feel for you.

The city is completely fucked up. Thank God the mayor (Daley) wont be in power much longer but I question any replacement mayor's ability to fix the city as much as I question Obama's ability to fix the country.


RE: Ha
By michaelklachko on 1/25/2011 3:43:23 PM , Rating: 2
"The entire city is unbelievably corrupt from top to bottom."

It's funny. I wish you lived in countries where corruption is the norm. That would be an eye-opener.


RE: Ha
By 0ldman on 1/26/2011 12:13:00 AM , Rating: 3
I'm pretty sure Chicago is in the US.

Corruption in the US just has a little spit and shine...

Honestly, if someone put forth the effort to dig up the info and had a way to enforce it, I'd be willing to bet that 90% of our politicians/govt employees have done something while in office that should have caused them to lose office.

It is ridiculous and they are the ones in power.

To be in office is suppose to be one of the ultimate acts of service, not a power trip.


RE: Ha
By RaulF on 1/24/2011 7:58:29 PM , Rating: 4
You are right, that icky gun might just jump off his shoulders and start shooting people.

Have to be careful, don't you they are called assault rifles. They go off on people all the time for no reason.

Oh, what does that have to do with this.


RE: Ha
By mcnabney on 1/25/2011 1:43:49 AM , Rating: 3
Just like in Arizona.


RE: Ha
By ekv on 1/25/2011 5:49:50 AM , Rating: 5
Rahm Emanuel: You never want a serious crisis to go to waste

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1yeA_kHHLow


RE: Ha
By Schrag4 on 1/25/2011 1:27:47 PM , Rating: 4
To be fair, a gun didn't randomly start shooting people in Arizona. A deranged man did. So the original, sarcastially made point still stands.


RE: Ha
By 91TTZ on 1/25/2011 2:49:27 PM , Rating: 3
In Arizona the gun went off all by itself? Damn, CNN told me that there was a nutcase that planned this whole thing out and meant to do it.


RE: Ha
By MrBlastman on 1/25/2011 2:52:42 PM , Rating: 2
Umm... It's totally within my right to carry my Steyr AUG (assault rifle for those who don't know) with me if I please, slung to my back, loaded with a 42-round magazine in the mag well. I can even have my holographic sight attached to it also.

All of this, where I live (Georgia) is totally legal, provided I have a carry permit as an added precaution (I do).

However, If I walk into a church carrying said weapon, or even a concealed one, I get to go to jail. If I walk into a public gathering with such weapons, I get to go to jail also. Our laws are pretty goofy here and are actually a result of jim-crowe laws from back in the day to oppress the less fortunate.

But, like the news fails to report, it was the nut behind the gun that killed the people in Arizona, not the Glock and not the 30 round magazine in it either. It was the people there that stopped him that day, and if some of them were carrying, he would have probably been stopped a lot sooner.

But yeah, we should be able to record the police just as much as they can record and conduct surveillance on us.


RE: Ha
By thurston on 1/25/2011 7:09:50 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Umm... It's totally within my right to carry my Steyr AUG (assault rifle for those who don't know) with me if I please, slung to my back, loaded with a 42-round magazine in the mag well. I can even have my holographic sight attached to it also.


My you must have a large penis. (I know what a Steyr AUG is)

quote:
All of this, where I live (Georgia) is totally legal, provided I have a carry permit as an added precaution (I do).


You can do that where I live too, no permit required.

quote:
But, like the news fails to report, it was the nut behind the gun that killed the people in Arizona, not the Glock and not the 30 round magazine in it either. It was the people there that stopped him that day, and if some of them were carrying, he would have probably been stopped a lot sooner.


Maybe Fox new didn't report that Jared Loughner did the shooting but every news channel I saw reporting it did. I agree that guns don't kill people by themselves but I don't think if a bunch of people there started pulling guns it would have made the situation any better. How would you know who to shoot?

I am a gun owner myself but the second amendment is not very clear.

quote:
A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.


What does a well regulated militia mean?

If the amendment gives people the right to individually keep arms why can't I have a nuclear weapon if I wish? The amendment makes no mention of limits to the potential power of the arms I am allowed to bear. It seems the founding fathers wanted us to have the right to bear arms to be able to protect ourselves from a tyrannical government. If that's the case then I should definitely be able to have any sort of weapon I want.

And on a final note I will quote Lynyrd Skynyrd from the song Saturday Night Special.

quote:
Handguns are meant for killin, ain't no good for nothin else.


RE: Ha
By Maiyr on 1/26/2011 1:48:29 PM , Rating: 2
Let me say that I am VERY pro gun. However this is scary, "and if some of them were carrying, he would have probably been stopped a lot sooner". Can you imagine if a few people had been carrying and decided that they needed to stop the violence. Yes, they would have been attempting to prevent a foreceable felony, but they likely would have shot innocent bystanders thereby increasing the body count. If there were any carrying they did the right thing by getting the f*** out of there and going home safely to their families.

Maiyr


RE: Ha
By lagomorpha on 1/29/2011 1:07:34 AM , Rating: 3
Which Georgia are you talking about, the one by Alabama or the one by Russia? Because to be considered an "assault rifle", the firearm needs selective fire. If your rifle has selective fire then you need a Title 3 permit in Alabama-Georgia and the firearm had to have been in the nation before the ban was implemented (except for a small number of firearms that were given special licenses because the owners were friends of congressmen but that's another story...)


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