Sunday, 24 June 2018 21:20

Felony Eavesdropping Charge For 13-Year-Old Who Recorded Illinois School Principal

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A 13-year-old who recorded a conversation with his school's principal and another administrator has been charged with felony eavesdropping. 

Student Paul Boron began recording before stepping into Principal David Conrad's office for a February 16 meeting with Conrad and Assistant Principal Nathan Short, after he failed to attend several detentions at Manteno Middle School.

Boron says he argued with Conrad and Short for around 10 minutes in the reception area of the school secretary's office. When Boron told the two administrators that he was recording, Principal Conrad reportedly the student that he was committing a felony and quickly ended the conversation. 

Two months later Boron was slapped with a class 4 felony charge of eavesdropping. 

“If I do go to court and get wrongfully convicted, my whole life is ruined,” said Boron, who lives with his mother and four siblings in Manteno, Illinois, an hour southwest of Chicago. “I think they’re going too far.” -Illinois Policy

Kankakee County Assistant State's Attorney Mark Laws wrote in his petition to bring the charge that Boron "used a cellphone to surreptitiously record a private conversation between the minor and school officials without consent of all parties."

“It blew my mind that they would take it that far … I want to see him be able to be happy and live up to his full potential in life, especially with the disability he has,” said Boron's mother, Leah McNally.

The Manteno district handbook prohibits students from recording interactions with other students at school, while the school itself is allowed to record the students. It says nothing about when students may record teachers or administrators.  

What's more, Illinois eavesdropping law - some of them most strict and controversial in the country, is similarly vague - which has led to several contentious legal battles and attempts at reform. 

Christopher Drew, an artist arrested for selling artwork on a Chicago sidewalk in 2009, was charged with a felony for recording the incident. In 2010, Bridgeport resident Michael Allison was charged with a felony for recording his own court hearing after the court did not provide a court reporter. The same year, Chicagoan Tiawanda Moore was charged with a felony for recording conversations with Chicago Police Department investigators regarding her sexual misconduct complaint against an officer. -Illinois Policy

The reason for the legal fiascos is due to the fact that Illinois is an "all-party consent" state, meaning that recording any conversation without the consent of all parties is a felony, while federal law and most states allow for one-party consent

Boron’s case raises a number of questions critics pointed out in the debate surrounding the 2014 law. Namely, when does someone have a “reasonable” expectation of privacy? And is it fair to expect Illinoisans to know where to draw that line in their everyday lives?

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