By Jacob Sullum
CHICAGO — On Jan. 13, 2009, Michael Allison brought a digital recorder to the Crawford County Courthouse in Downstate Robinson, where he was contesting a citation, because he had been told there would be no official transcript of the proceedings. He was immediately confronted by Circuit Judge Kimbara Harrell, who accused him of violating her privacy and charged him with eavesdropping, a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
Because Allison had recorded conversations about his legal situation with police and other local officials, he soon faced four more eavesdropping charges, raising his possible sentence to 75 years. The case against Allison vividly shows how the Illinois Eavesdropping Act, the target of a constitutional challenge that was recently heard by a federal appeals court, undermines transparency, civil liberties and legal equality.
ACLU challenges Ill. eavesdropping law