Eavesdropping Arrest Supports Suing Police

     CHICAGO (CN) – A woman jailed for two weeks after recording police officers she believed were pressuring her to drop her allegations of misconduct against their colleague may have a civil rights case, a federal judge ruled.
     The Illinois Supreme Court found the Eavesdropping Act unconstitutional in March this year, finding that it criminalized recording of all conversations regardless of whether the contents of the conversation were meant to be public or private.
     But the now-overturned act is still binding on claims stemming from events that occurred before March.
     Tiawanda Moore claims that Officer Jason Wilson entered her bedroom during a response to a domestic disturbance and placed his hands on her chest and butt.
     After she quickly removed his hands, he wrote down his phone number on a piece of paper and placed it on Moore’s bed.
     Moore later called 311 to report Wilson’s conduct, and met with two investigating officers, Richard Plotke and Luis Alejo, to discuss what happened to her.
     Although Moore showed them the piece of paper, and Wilson admitted the misconduct, the officers told her she would not win in court, Moore said. They assured her that what happened would not be repeated, but said: “We don’t feel like you should proceed with charges due to the fact that we already talked to the sergeant and the officer.”
     When Plotke and Alejo briefly left the room, Moore activated her phone’s recording application because she felt the officers were pressuring her to drop her complaint.
     Moore claims that the officers returned and asked her to leave, but Plotke stopped her, saying, “No, sit down … you’re not going anywhere,” thereby detaining her before he learned she was recording the conversation.
     The officers dispute this series of events, and say that Alejo spotted a microphone symbol on Moore’s phone, giving them probable cause to arrest her.
     Both sides agree that Moore was charged with eavesdropping, and spent two weeks in Cook County Jail before a jury found her not guilty in August 2011.
     The now-defunct Illinois anti-eavesdropping law prohibits making a recording of a conversation without the consent of all parties, but there is an exemption for a person who believes the other party to the conversation is committing a crime.
     U.S. District Judge John Lee agreed with Moore last week that a jury could find that the officers were actively trying to thwart a criminal investigation into Wilson’s conduct.
     “A rational jury could conclude that reasonable officers in Plotke and Alejo’s position would have known that Moore’s recording did not violate the Illinois eavesdropping statute because she had grounds to believe that they were attempting to obstruct justice and commit similar offenses,” Lee wrote.
     Lee also upheld Moore’s First Amendment retaliatory arrest claim, because “whether the arrest itself was supported by probable cause or even arguable probable cause are issues that are disputed in the record.”

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