A woman acquitted last fall of violating Illinois's eavesdropping law after recording Chicago Police officers discouraging her from filing a complaint alleging that another officer had touched her inappropriately has filed a federal suit against the city.
Tiawanda Moore, 21, recorded police investigators in August 2010 when she met with police investigators to report an officer groping her breast and slipping her his home phone number while responding to a domestic disturbance call at a home she shared with her boyfriend.
Facing felony eavesdropping charges, Moore was acquitted last August of the crime in a trial one juror called "a waste of time."
Moore, who spent more than two weeks in Cook County Jail, filed suit Friday against the city and its police department. Alleging unreasonable seizure, false arrest and malicious prosecution, Moore claims that the state's eavesdropping law specifically exempts individuals who record police officers "under reasonable suspicion that another party to the conversation is committing, is about to commit" a crime of which a recording would provide evidence, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.
The Illinois eavesdropping statute forbids the secret recording of private or public conversations without the consent of all parties involved, specifically including police officers. Violating the law is a felony that comes with a harsh penalty -- a maximum 15 years in prison.
The state is one of few states with such a law on the books. As the Chicago Tribune reports, several court challenges of the law have already been mounted and, this month, state Rep. Elaine Nekritz (D-Naperville) introduced a bill (HB 3944) that would reverse the law.
"I believe that the existing statute is a significant intrusion into First Amendment rights, so with the prosecutions and the court cases that have been reported about, it just seemed that this is a problem in need of a swift solution," Nekritz told the Tribune of her proposal.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois has challenged the law as unconstitutional, but they have yet been able to dismantle it. In September, U.S. 7th Circuit Judge Richard Posner said that news of the law being repealed or even weakened would cause gang members, "snooping" bloggers and reporters to "rejoice."
The ACLU has vowed to press on and seek a federal injunction that would prevent the Cook County State's Attorney from prosecuting others with violating the law.
"In order to make the rights of free expression and petition effective, individuals and organizations must be able to freely gather and record information about the conduct of government and its agents -- especially the police," Harvey Grossman, legal director of the ACLU of Illinois explained in a statement.
WATCH a previous report on Moore's acquittal on charges that she violated the state's controversial eavesdropping law: