August 18th, 2011

Mass. D.A. Says No Wiretapping Laws Broken When Cops Have No Expectation Of Privacy 1

By Carlos Miller

mark_mastroianni.jpg

Springfield Police Officer Michael Sedergren proved to have a lot of chutzpah when he filed an application for a criminal complaint against a woman who videotaped him participating in the beating of a man who was left unconscious on the side of the road.

Sedergren – who was suspended for 45 days – was alleging that his rights were violated when she recorded him from inside her home back in 2009 in the incident that left Melvin Jones III with nearly every bone in his face broken, teeth knocked out and partially blinded in one eye.

He was hoping to use Massachusetts’ ambigious wiretapping law against Tyrisha Greene, which could have had her facing five years in prison.

The state law makes it a crime to secretly record somebody’s audio. And unlike most states, it does not include an expectation of privacy provision, which would explicitly allow on-duty cops to be recorded in public.

However, on Wednesday, Hampden District Attorney Mark G. Mastroianni declared there must be an expectation of privacy for the law to apply. This led to Sedergen’s application being thrown out.

According to The Republican:

Assistant Clerk Magistrate Joanne M. McCarthy rejected the application after a short closed-door hearing. The Republican unsuccessfully petitioned to open the hearing to the public. McCarthy denied the petition based on Sedergren’s objection, according to those present.

The fact that Sedergren failed to criminalize Greene on wiretapping charges for videotaping him could set precedent in a state where the precedent hasn’t been very clear, meaning his retaliatory attempts may have backfired.

And this could spell good news for Robert Mansfield, who was arrested last month in Brockton on wiretapping charges for recording a cop during a traffic stop without his knowledge.

Mansfield may or may not have been secretly recording, but it should make it more difficult to prosecute him on wiretapping charges when the cop in his case had as much expectation of privacy as Sedergren did during the beating.

It’s not much different from the Anthony Graber case in Maryland last year where a judge ruled that a police officer pulling a motorist over does not have an expectation of privacy and can therefore be audio-recorded without their consent or knowledge.

This pretty much leaves Illinois as the only state in the country where it is illegal to record on-duty police officers in public.

Jones is suing Sedergen for kicking him in the groin and back during the altercation two years ago.

The main culprit in that incident is a rogue cop named Jeffrey Asher who was fired for beating Jones with a flashlight, but only after being granted a disability pension.

Mastroianni, who has been in office less than a year, has vowed to fully prosecute Asher on assault with a deadly weapon charges. The trial is set for December.


Send stories, tips and videos to Carlos Miller.
Javascript is currently disabled. This website functions better with Javascript. Please enable Javascript in your browser.
Internet Explorer is out-of-date. Please upgrade your browser or install Google Chrome Frame for an improved web browsing experience.