Animal activist wins battle, but fight may not be over

Friday, October 29, 1999

The Daily Herald (Suburban Chicago)

Daily Herald Staff Writer

Geneva's premier animal rights activist won a round Thursday in his battle to overcome a charge that he illegally taped St. Charles police officers during last summer's Kane County Fair rodeo.

But his fight may not be over.

Kane County Judge James Doyle honored a prosecutor's request to drop the eavesdropping charge against Steve Hindi, president of the animal rights group, SHARK.

St. Charles police arrested Hindi during July's rodeo after they discovered he had tape recorded their conversation. Hindi was showing the officers photos that he said showed rodeo workers using electric prods on the animals. Hindi wanted the officers to shut down the rodeo for violating animal cruelty laws and said he recorded the conversation to have proof his pleas were ignored.

Hindi was charged with felony eavesdropping, which can carry a prison sentence.

After several court dates, prosecutors dropped the charge Thursday but could not be reached to explain why.

Hindi said he then went to get back his tape recorder from St. Charles police but was told he couldn’t get it without a court order.

Acting Police Chief Don Shaw said he was surprised the charges were dropped.

"It was the state's attorney's office who authorized the charges," he said.

Shaw said he plans to meet with prosecutors to review the case. He would not say, however, whether he planned to get the charge reinstalled.

He didn't have to. Hindi said a detective told him the department was going to try to get the eavesdropping charge refilled.

Hindi said if that happens, he plans to defend himself by citing a state law that says public officials don't have a reasonable expectation of privacy while on duty.

"They're not using the law as a tool of justice," he said. "They're using it as a weapon."

Hindi, a Geneva businessman, spent time in the McHenry County jail two years ago for defying a judge's order not to disturb hunters in Woodstock.