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Woman acquitted of eavesdropping charges for recording cops sues city
BY MICHAEL LANSU Staff Reporter
January 14, 2012
A woman found not guilty of secretly recording Chicago Police officers who allegedly tried to discourage her from filing a complaint against an officer who groped her filed a federal lawsuit Friday against the city and the officers.
Tiawanda Moore, 21, claims Chicago Police responded to her home for a domestic dispute and one of the officers groped her breasts and buttocks while interviewing her in a bedroom, according to a suit filed in U.S. District Court.
Before leaving the bedroom, the suit claims the officer wrote his home phone number on a piece of paper and told Moore to call him because they should “hook up.”
The suit claims Moore called police to report the officer’s misconduct, and met with a lieutenant and an Internal Affairs Division officer, who discouraged her from filing a complaint.
Moore began secretly recording her conversation with the lieutenant and IAD officer on her Blackberry, according to the suit. Police then arrested her and charged her with violating the Illinois Eavesdropping Statute, which prevents people from secretly recording conversations.
“I wanted him to be fired,” Moore testified of the cop she said fondled her. Moore said she didn’t know about the eavesdropping law.
The suit claims the statute specifically exempts persons who recorded “under reasonable suspicion that another party to the conversation is committing, is about to commit . . . a criminal offense against the person . . . and there is reason to believe that evidence of the criminal offense may be obtained by the recording.”
The suit claims that by preventing Moore from leaving the interview room and attempting to prevent her from filing a complaint, they were committing crimes of unlawful restraint, official misconduct and attempting to commit the crime of obstruction of justice.
Moore spent more than two weeks in Cook County Jail and spent a year fighting the charges, according to the suit. She was found not guilty on Aug. 25. The three-count suit claims unreasonable seizure, false arrest and malicious prosecution.
In the recording, which the one juror said was replayed several times in the jury room, Alejo was heard explaining to Moore that she might be wasting her time because it was basically her word against that of the patrol officer. Alejo also said they could “almost guarantee” that the officer would never bother her again if she dropped the complaint.
"When we heard that, everyone (on the jury) just shook their head," juror Adams said in a telephone interview. "If what those two investigators were doing wasn't criminal, we felt it bordered on criminal, and she had the right to record it."
Illinois is one of only a handful of states that make it illegal to record audio of public conversations without the permission of everyone involved. Laws in Massachusetts and Oregon are similarly strict but not as broad, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
If the victim is a law enforcement officer, the potential penalties increase sharply — up to 15 years in prison, the maximum sentence Moore faced if she had been convicted.
Critics contend that the statute is obsolete in a world where so many people carry cellphones with recording devices and surveillance cameras populate virtually every corner of the city. They also argue it prevents citizens from documenting misconduct by law enforcement officers in public.
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