Animal rights activist recharged for illegally tape-recording conversation

Thursday, November 4, 1999

Kane County Chronicle (IL)


ST. CHARLES – Animal rights activist Steve Hindi was stunned Wednesday when he learned an eavesdropping charge was reinstated against him for tape-recording a conversation with St. Charles police officers at the Kane County Fair rodeo last summer.

Hindi said he thought the legal battle was behind him when Kane County Judge James Doyle dismissed the eavesdropping charge last Thursday based on a request made by a Kane County Assistant State's attorney.

But a Kane County Grand Jury reissued felony eavesdropping charges Tuesday against Hindi for the same July 2 incident.

"This is a fiasco," Hindi said during a telephone interview. "We have the courts and taxpayers' time and money being thrown away with both hands. I went through five hearings to have the charges dismissed and now I have to go through it all over again."

Prosecutors acted prematurely last week when they agree to dismiss the eavesdropping charge. They based their decision on a letter submitted by defense attorney Rick Halprin that cited case law claiming public officials, including police officers, don't have a right to privacy when speaking to a member of the public.

After last week's court hearing, prosecutors did some research and learned the 2nd District Appellate Court amend eth eavesdropping statute to include all conversations, even if the are intended to be private, state Joe McMahon, chief of the criminal division for the Kane Count State's Attorney's Office.

McMahon reaffirmed that state law says it's illegal to use a device to hear or record a conversation without the consent of all parties involved.

"We re-evaluated the case law and determined we shouldn't have dismissed the original charge," McMahon said.

Hindi didn't have the permission of St. Charles police officers when he recorded their conversation, police reports state.

In early July, some police officers were working at the county fair when Hindi approached them asking that they shut down the rodeo. He wanted the rodeo organizers to be ticketed for violating anti-cruelty laws. Hindi then showed officers photos he took of rodeo workers allegedly using electronic prods on animals earlier in the day, police reports state.

When the officers ignored his claims, Hindi returned with a tape recorder hidden in his coat to tape his conversation as proof his pleas were being ignored by law enforcement officials.

Toward the end of the conversation, Hindi pulled out the recorder and let them know he had a copy of the conversation. He was arrested and charged with eavesdropping, then spent one night in jail.

Hindi was going to file for a court order to get back the recorder and tape from the St. Charles Police Department. Now, he isn't sure if he will ever get his personal property back.

"They certainly will hold on to it now," Hindi said.

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