Tiawanda Moore thought she did everything right: after suffering what she believed was sexual harassment at the hands of a patrol officer responding to a call at her home, she contacted Chicago Police internal affairs investigators to file a formal complaint. But, her reception from internal affairs was anything but warm.
As investigators tried to convince Moore to drop the matter, she discretely switched on her BlackBerry's voice recorder. Instead of helping her find justice, Moore's attempt to hold Chicago PD accountable for misconduct almost landed her in prison.
Violation of Illinois Eavesdropping Law Could Have Carried 15 Year Sentence
Rather than applaud Ms. Moore's attempt to expose improper law enforcement procedures, Cook County prosecutors slapped her with charges for violating the Illinois Eavesdropping Act, a state law that criminalizes the recording of public conversations without the consent of everyone involved. Potential penalties under the Illinois Eavesdropping Act increase substantially when a police officer is recorded, and if convicted, Moore could have faced 15 years in prison.
Despite the zealousness of the state's attorneys, a jury remained unconvinced that Moore was in the wrong.
"The two cops [she recorded] came across as intimidating and insensitive," juror Ray Adams told the Chicago Tribune. "Everybody thought [the prosecution] was just a waste of time and that [Moore] never should have been charged," he added.
After deliberating for just over an hour, the jury acquitted Moore of all charges.
Fighting for Police Accountability
The Illinois Eavesdropping Act has been lambasted as outdated, unwise and even unconstitutional. Only a few other states have laws in place that make it illegal to record conversations carried on in public. These laws have been widely criticized as a bar to transparency and accountability in law enforcement.
In 2010, the ACLU filed a lawsuit in Chicago challenging the Illinois Eavesdropping Act on constitutional grounds, only to have their action dismissed by a federal judge. An upcoming appeal of the decision is scheduled to be heard by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
If you have been charged with a crime, make sure police misconduct does not impede your defense - contact a Chicago area criminal defense attorney today.