Cop's grand jury testimony conflicts with taped conversation

Friday, May 12, 2000

The Kane County Chronicle (IL)

By Brenda Schory

GENEVA – The tape recording made of an animal rights activist's conversations with police at the Kane County Fair last summer are apparently different than an officer's recollection in grand jury testimony last November.

Kane County Circuit Court Judge Patrick Doyle ordered a copy of the tape to be released to Steve Hindi of Geneva. Hindi is being prosecuted on felony eavesdropping charges after he taped police without getting permission on July 17, 1999. Hindi taped his allegations that the rodeo company was cruel to its animals to make them perform.

But according to a transcript – made public through court records – of St. Charles Police Officer Lori York's grand jury testimony last November, York said Hindi "wasn't getting much satisfaction from me about trying to explain why the sign was posted 'no flash photography' and I had told him that there was nothing more to talk about and he pulled out of his shirt pocket a small voice recorder and he said, 'Huh, I just recorded our entire conversation.' "

Also according to the transcript, York testified, "And I let him know that that was not allowed and that that was against the law and he started to argue against that he – it was not against the law and we went back and forth a little bit and that's when I had contacted my sergeant (to) come and take over."

But York's warning that taping without permission is illegal cannot be heard on the tape – which also includes rodeo and crowd noise, announcers and music. Hindi's purported comment about recording the whole conversation also cannot be heard.

Hindi said he did not know he was being arrested for taping; he was waiting around to see if police would file cruelty charges against the rodeo company.

St. Charles Police Chief Don Shaw confirmed that some police officers heard the recording Hindi made that night at the county fair, though he has not. "Officers did listen to the tape and played it for the State's Attorney who authorized the charges," he said.

"I don't have the tape. It is a piece of evidence," Shaw added. "This is a pending criminal case and under the Supreme Court rules, I'm really not going to comment any further. There is a pending trial, and individuals are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

As to the apparent discrepancy between the tape and York's testimony, Shaw said, "We'll have to listen to the tape." Shaw said he believes the tape will be played in court.

Kane County State's Attorney Spokesman Doug Booth also said the office could not comment on the apparent discrepancy. "That is a case that is currently in the process," Booth said. "Your questions directly involve that case and therefore this office will not comment on the apparent comments that Mr. Hindi made."

Contrary to what York testified, Hindi can clearly be heard saying to York, "I couldn't help but notice the sign coming in that says 'no flash photography.' And it's equally obvious to me (there are) all these flashes going on."

York can be heard saying, "I know they told us earlier today no video recording. The sign is wrong. The sign doesn't mean anything." York then says, "I don't know what to tell you. Are you recording this?"

"Yes, I'm recording it and I'm going to continue to record every word," Hindi is heard saying. "We're in a public place. I'm wondering where the commander, the sergeant is. Every other cop seems to know we're here, why is the commander so uninformed?" Hindi is repeatedly heard asking to talk to a sergeant or commander in order to file animal cruelty charges against the rodeo company.

According to York's grand jury testimony, when Sgt. Brad Griffin arrived, Hindi again attempted to tape record the officers. She said Hindi was not arrested immediately, but after they called the state's attorney to get approval for felony eavesdropping charges.

Also according to the grand jury transcript, Assistant States Attorney Deborah Simpson asks York, "Did you discuss with him the potential that he may be charged?"

She responds, "Yes."

"What was his response?"

York testified, "He said he would be willing to stick around because he strongly felt that he was correct and I told him that I would let him know."

When Griffin arrives to talk to Hindi, he can be heard asking, "Are you recording?"

"Yeah, I'm tape recording the whole thing," Hindi responds. "I think it would be good to keep a record of it, don’t you, officer? I just want a record of it. We're in a public place."

"Without announcing it?" Griffin is heard asking.

"I did announce it. I told the lady (York) I was tape recording." York can be heard responding, "That was after you taped it."

Hindi says, "We're in a public place."

"Can I have your tape recorder please?" Griffin asks. Hindi says no. "May I see it so I can see it is recording? I'll give it back to you."

Hindi agrees, saying "Sure."

After a pause, Griffin says, "If you wish to speak to me, turn it off and I'll speak to you."

Hindi responds, "I don't think I should have to because I really need to talk to you." And then the tape is shut off.

Also according to York's grand jury testimony, she says she has listened to the tape and knows that her conversation was recorded.

"That means she listened to the tape and still got it wrong," Hindi said, referring to specific details of what was said. "This shows why you really ought to tape a police officer. A cop who doesn't want to be taped shouldn't be a cop."

Hindi said he brought the audio tape recorder as part of his animal rights activities. "We document everything," Hindi said. Usually, they document instances of animal cruelty on video camera or with still photography, but sometimes they use an audio tape recorder to document police reaction to their requests to take action. Hindi has never been charged with eavesdropping before.

Police would not accept Hindi's allegations that shocking animals to make them perform constituted cruelty and brought no charges against the rode company. Hindi's court felony eavesdropping case continues next week.


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