Hindi charges revived

Thursday, November 4, 1999

The Beacon News (Aurora, IL)

By Joel Patenaude

ST. CHARLES – Steve Hindi, a Geneva-based animal rights activist, has been recharged with felony eavesdropping for tape-recording an argument he had with a police officer during a rodeo at the Kane County Fair.

After the Kane County state's attorney's office presented its case against Hindi a second time, a grand jury Tuesday indicted Hindi on a charge of eavesdropping.

An assistant state's attorney had agreed on Oct. 28 to drop the same charge.

"This is utterly amazing," Hindi said Wednesday, informed of his need to appear in court Nov. 18 to face the reinstate charge.

At the Kane County Fair in July, Hindi gave law enforcement officials photographs showing rodeo personnel using electric prodding devices to make bulls buck and dragging the tails of other livestock over gates.

Instead of citing the rodeo for violating the Illinois Humane Care for Animals Act, Hindi said, police and the state's attorney's office "are jerking me around with this silly case."

In the motion to dismiss the original charge, Hindi's attorney Rick Halprin said Lori York – acting in her public capacity as a St. Charles police officer – had no right to privacy and could be recorded by Hindi without her consent.

But the state's attorney's office now believes there is no exemption for public officials or even a need to ague whether York had a right to privacy.

"Unless there is an explicitly agreement between both parties, it is a violation of the law to tape-record a conversation," Joe McMahon, chief of the state's attorney's criminal division, said.

McMahon said the assistant state's attorney handling the case had agreed to drop the charged based on a 1978 case cited by Halprin. But, later that day, after Judge James Doyle dismissed the case, the assistant state's attorney reviewed a court decision based on an amendment to the eavesdropping statute in 1994.

Halprin was not available for comment Wednesday. He has said, however, that authorities have chosen to harass his client, rather than address animal abuse at locally held rodeos.

Hindi said he did not make a secret of taping his conversation with York, but frequently took the recorder out of his pocket to make sure it was working. Hindi, who frequently has videotaped alleged animal abuse while "undercover," insists he wanted the officers at the rodeo to know they were being taped.

According to a St. Charles police report of the incident, Kane County sheriff's Sgt. Brad Griffin refused to talk to Hindi until he turned off the tape recorder.

"As soon as I did, he became belligerent, arrogant and careless about what was being done to the animals," Hindi said. "In my experience, the police officers who do not want to be recorded need to be recorded."

Hindi said his audio tape, retained as evidence by St. Charles police, will reveal "exactly what happened. It's going to be pretty embarrassing for them."

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