Hindi ruling expected today

Wednesday, September 6, 2000


By Brenda Schory

St. Charles- For three hours Tuesday, attorneys sparred over Steve Hindi's right to tape record his conversations with police without their permission at the Kane County Fair July 17, 1999.

Kane County Circuit Court Judge James Doyle said he would rule Wednesday morning on the felony of eavesdropping charges against the Elburn animal rights activist. Doyle also is expected to rule on allegations by Hindi's attorney, Rick Halprin, that Hindi was singled out for selective enforcement because of his animal rights activities.

Hindi was charged under an eavesdropping law that requires consent of all parties. Halprin reiterated earlier arguments and case law that finds police officers do not have an expectation of privacy while performing their duties publicly and in uniform.

Halprin repeated that by wearing uniforms and being in a public place like the Kane County Fair, the officers granted Hindi "implied" consent to be taped. He argued that the Illinois Constitution and the law relates to Fourth Amendment protection of privacy that police in uniform do not have the right to expect.

"They have no right of privacy," Halprin told the judge. "A police officer…in public has no right of privacy…"

Assistant Kane County State 's Attorney Greg Sams countered that the eavesdropping statute requires all parties to a conversation to give consent-which did not happen in this case.

"The issues you're raising have already been heard and denied," Sams said. "This court has already said this is not the law."

Sams was referring to Halprin's earlier unsuccessful attempts to get the charges dismissed. He added, "The (eavesdropping) law is applicable to the defendant."

Sams also pointed out that lawmakers increased the penalty for taping a police officer in performance of his duty since the charges against Hindi. Halprin argued that if police had an expectation of privacy, they wouldn't need a statute like that.

Doyle heard testimony of two St. Charles Police Officers, Lori Kessler and Sgt. Brad Griffin, whom Hindi taped at the fair. Hindi had sought out the officers because he had pictures of what he alleged was animal abuse at the rodeo event.

Kessler testified that she and the other officers pulling extra duty at the fair had been warned by Griffin that animal rights activists could be expected.

"We were told we could expect animal rights protesters at the rodeo," Kessler said. "Steve Hindi's name was mentioned."

"What was the concern?" Halprin asked, referring to animal rights activities.

Kessler replied that when activist groups protest, they can be disruptive or get out of hand.

"One guy, four police officers and you're concerned he's going to get out of hand?" Halprin quipped. "There's one guy, no sign and no bullhorn. What's the concern?"

"We had no idea how many people were going to be there," Kessler replied.

She testified that Hindi pulled a small tape recorder from his shirt pocket and said he was taping. Kessler called Griffin on her radio to talk to Hindi.

"When you put the uniform on… you behave in a certain way," Halprin said to Kessler. "The public has every right to monitor your behavior. You understand that the public is always watching you."

Kessler agreed.

When Griffin arrived, Kessler testified that she stepped away with him briefly to have a private conversation. Halprin seized on this, saying they realized they could be overheard in a public place.

"You spoke in low tones away from Mr. Hindi and his tape recorder?" Halprin asked.

Griffin testified that he had heard about Hindi from other law enforcement agencies and about animal rights tactics from Hindi's Web site. Griffin testified he told the officers on duty at the fairgrounds what to expect, which could include "taunting people coming into the rodeo, attempting to goad them into fights due to opposing beliefs," Griffin said.

He added police didn't want the rodeo event to "end in a big brawl between the cowboys and the protesters."

"He (Hindi) had been arrested previously in Lake County ," Griffin said. "He (Hindi) works on the edges of extremism…in his protest."

Halprin countered that Hindi's right of protest is protected by the First Amendment.

Griffin called the assistant state's attorney on duty that night, James Guagliardo, to ask whether charges of animal abuse should be filed against the rodeo for lack of shelter and using an electric cattle prod-and whether Hindi should be charged with eavesdropping. Guagliardo approved the charge against Hindi.

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