20 months in jail for recording a conversation with a bureaucrat?

What kind of Kafka-like monster did the Illinois legislature create this time?

As the Chicago Tribune reported about an injustice that the Illinois Supreme Court finally ended:

The case involves Annabel Melongo, who recorded three telephone conversations she had with a court reporter supervisor at the George Leighton Criminal Courts complex.

Melongo called to correct an apparent error in a court transcript, then posted audio of the phone calls on a website she’d created to publicize her computer-tampering case. Prosecutors charged her in 2010 with six counts of eavesdropping and she spent more than 20 months in jail, unable to make bail.

In effect, the court said, the law is overly broad because it assumes that all conversations are deemed to be private. Consequently, the  law prohibited tape recordings in public places without the other person giving consent.  As the court stated:

The statute criminalizes the recording of conversations that cannot be deemed private: a loud argument on the street, a political debate on a college quad, yelling fans at an athletic event, or any conversation loud enough that the speakers should expect to be heard by others.

My guess is that the purpose of the law was to protect public "servants"--meaning anyone from police officers down to court clerks, from being recorded. As someone noted: The government can video you anywhere on a public street, but you can't audio record the same thing?

The court's opinion is here.

What was America's greatest come-from-behind war? Go here to find out.

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  • You ask what kind of "Kafka-like monster" the Illinois legislature created "this time." The law was passed 53 years ago, in 1961, to protect us against unauthorized electronic surveillance.

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