MISINFORMATION & DISTRACTION: The REAL story of felony eavesdropping charges in IllinoisPosted by Angela Howser on Tuesday, September 6th, 2011 @ 4:55 pm.
We don't ordinarily do this, but given the massive media coverage issued toward Bridgeport resident Michael Allison, we've opted to jump ahead of the print version and bring to you the column I wrote last week that was intended for the September/October 2011 issue. It will appear in its entirety, but is being published first here, which is what's out of the ordinary. Because we can't let this issue, which is heating up considerably, go unaddressed any longer. There's a lot of bullshit being disseminated about Michael Allison's case, and we, having first-hand knowledge of it from the outset, would like to set the record straight. You all will know we're serious because yes, we usually take the side of the underdog, the one that is brutalized by our very own police state of Illinois. But that's not what's happening in this case. This is a distraction generated by people who have been mislead to believe what Michael Allison's case is about, and the real issue---that of First Amendment violations---is being obscured in the process....and we can't let that happen. So here is my column a week before print version readers get to see it; enjoy.
After receiving about the umpteenth piece of mail late in August (and this after having umpteenhundred emails, phone messages and references to it on the website) regarding Michael Allison in Crawford County and his upcoming court battle, I am finally compelled to do something to address it.
Our North Counties readers will be familiar with the story, but for those in central or South Counties who are not, here it is.
The Gestapo and the ordinances
Michael Allison, 42, a mechanic of sorts from Bridgeport, was cited in December of 2008 for having an ‘abandoned vehicle’ on his mother’s property in Robinson. Robinson, like most towns their size who think that because they host a prison outside their burg, their crap doesn’t stink, has a batch of ordinances such as an ‘abandoned vehicle’ one that they try to enforce and send their Gestapo jack-booted thugs also known as police out to do so.
The problem is that they don’t pay attention to the fine points of ‘abandoned vehicles’ and will just slap that label on anything that they perceive in their little pinhead brains doesn’t run….and that includes an antique car that may be being worked on, and between registrants. Which is what Michael Allison had. You know, those nice cars that people take to car shows all shiny and chromey and that we used to shoot in abundance there for awhile, until everybody else suddenly started shooting them, so we just let everyone else have it.
Allison’s wasn’t shiny and chromey; those cars have to start out beat up and bondo’d and up on blocks not running sometimes in order to get to the shiny, chromey part. Somehow, the Gestapo cops were able to ascertain that the car in question “didn’t have current registrations.” So they cited him with Ordinance Violations.
Enter Cop Watch
While having it out with them verbally (because Robinson cops are nothing if not argumentative and combative), Allison, worried about the situation escalating to something other than verbal (as those goosesteppo cops are prone to do), decided he was going to audiorecord (NOT VIDEO) the cops hollering at him. Which you can’t do in Illinois, because of this archaic law dating back to the days when people became able to easily obtain recording devices (1960s) and found that they could expose corruption in this most corrupt of states simply by recording public officials and playing it back for proof. You know that THAT couldn’t fly, so our legislators, in their infinite wisdom, made it illegal to surreptitiously record anyone…unless, of course, you were a public official and it were part of your official duties.
When the officers of the law learned that they had been covertly recorded (because Allison, ignorant of the law about eavesdropping as most Illinoisans are, had his recorder in his pocket, making it covert), they reported it to the prosecutor, Tom Wiseman, who filed felony eavesdropping charges against Michael Allison.
That is the first stage of this little drama, and the stage that all the hooraw started over with the group Cop Watch, who has come to Robinson on several occasions—primarily when Michael Allison has a court appearance—to stage a peaceful protest complete with signs on the courthouse lawn.
Not the most compelling part
Allison was charged with felony eavesdropping of Robinson Chief Bill Ackman on Nov. 26, 2008 and Officer William Rutan on Dec. 6, 2008, both of these pertaining to what he calls “bogus” ordinance violations issued against him.
However, the recording of the police ISN’T where it ends, and that ISN’T the most compelling part of the little saga.
What the Cop Watch people seem to be overlooking are the subsequent felonies Allison incurred after he started going to court on the initial felonies.
Allison is also charged with recording Crawford County deputy circuit clerk Debbie Phillippe on Dec. 19; a Nancy Ulrey and a Craig Weber on Dec. 31, 2008, and finally, the judge in his case as it went to court.
Allison first appeared in court on the OVs and the felony recording of the officers and court officials January 13, 2009. That hearing was held in front of associate judge Kimbara Harrell. It was just an appearance that was a court formality, and there was nothing substantial toward the case going on: no entering of a plea of guilty or not guilty, no preliminary where testimony was being given for probable cause.
But Allison wanted a court reporter. And there wasn’t one to be had at the time.
Asked the judge
So (and this is what he personally told me, by phone, in April 2009) he asked the judge if he could provide his own tape recorder to record the hearings; and of course you can imagine her response, which was a big fat NO. There simply aren’t recording devices allowed in courtrooms, and rarely have there been (the exception being some TV cameras if there’s a major trial or hearing and permission is obtained first). And Kim Harrell is “the court.” If she says no, she means no, and unfortunately for some, there doesn’t need to be a reason.
Harrell then asked Allison if he had a recording device on him. He replied that he did. She asked him if it were running. He said it was not. She went on with the proceedings, reading the eavesdropping law (as it was being applied to him for recording the officers, this according to the court record) and advising him of his charges.
When he was told by Harrell he was free to go, he went to leave the courtroom, and was stopped by a law enforcement officer, who asked permission to search Allison for tape recording devices, which kind of stood to reason, since he had told the judge that he’d had one with him.
When the officer conducted a search, he found a running tape recorder, and Allison was in BIG, FAT trouble at that point.
He was charged with an additional count of recording the judge on that day, all of this coming after an investigation and then being formally filed in April 2009, a total of five felony eavesdropping charges, because not only had he recorded the judge against the law and her wishes, he had also lied to her. He was fortunate he wasn’t charged with something related to the lie, like Obstruction of Justice.
And somehow, Cop Watch and everyone else whose ass is up in the air over this seems to be missing this point.
Hard to get along with
I guess Allison thought that if he took enough umbrage, the outrage he felt over the way the Robinson Gestapo treated him would carry him past the fact that he allegedly did something that is highly illegal in the state of Illinois.
He took his umbrage, which had gotten him through two federal lawsuits against the city of Bridgeport (we reported on them in 2007, which is how we met Michael), out on every subsequent attorney who was either appointed to him or took his case.
Between April 2009 and the present day, Allison has been represented by Michael Finn, Michael Correll, Alane Arbogast, Bill Hoffedeitz, Paul E. Wieck, Catherine Yargus, Richard James and finally, the current team of William Sunderman and Brigette Lobacs. All the previous attorneys have withdrawn from the case because of “an irretrievable breakdown in attorney-client communication” or some similar issue…because Michael Allison, I think, believes he can single-handedly challenge the eavesdropping law and beat it in his case.
And that simply can’t be done.
The only way the law can be changed is to do it from the point of legislation downward, not from the courtroom upward. David Frankland, the current judge on the case, isn’t going to be swayed by the fact that Sunderman and Lobacs, part of the Brainard Law Group, is trying to involve the ACLU in the fight. I’m sure the ACLU is going to claim that such a law is not only unconstitutional on the face of it, but that because it involves police officers in the course of carrying out their duties, they should know that they’re subject to being recorded, covertly or overtly, and should not only accept that but expect it, because they’re on the taxpayer’s dime when doing so, and the taxpayers should be able to monitor that job in any way possible.
But that doesn’t apply to a judge and in the courtroom.
And it certainly doesn’t apply to a judge in a courtroom if you stand there and lie to the judge.
I’m not surmising here. In May of 2009, Michael Allison called us again and asked, in a roundabout way, what would happen if he were to have done what he was alleged to have done. I personally answered the question, and told him in no uncertain terms that while our law of covert recording is archaic, you JUST CAN’T record court proceedings, and especially covertly, then lie about it. Then he broke down and told me the whole thing. And I told him, “Dude, you are in some seriously deep shit. My advice to you is to go in there, apologize to the judge, tell the prosecutor you’ll accept a plea, and get on with it, because you are screwed.”
But here we are two and a half years later, and Allison is a cause celebré. And it’s because people have been mislead to believe that this is all and only about COPS, and in some INACCURATE reports, VIDEOTAPING THEM...WHICH NEVER HAPPENED.
And in David Frankland’s courtroom, none of it is going to fly, and what could have been a simple plea down to a misdemeanor in the summer of 2009 is probably going to land Michael Allison in prison for a few months (not 75 damn years like the overblown whiners have it being) because he has chosen to fight a beast with too many teeth and claws, and one that he should never have tangled with in the first place…and all because at a first appearance, where there is hardly EVER a friggin court reporter, he felt like the proceedings should be RECORDED.
A few points need to be made right here.
It is NOT illegal to videotape officers in the course of their duties, unless that videotape device also contains an audio device and it is concealed and covert. Cops can’t arrest us for holding up a cell phone camera pointed at them recording them while they beat restrained suspects (as they often do in Robinson, incidentally).
It IS illegal to do what Allison is alleged to have done, which is covertly tape conversations between himself and anyone, or between other people while he’s within earshot.
There has been a lot of misinformation spread around because of this case, but folks, that’s the way it is. You CAN record cops doing their thing, as long as you are obvious when you’re doing it.
And it’s really kinda hard to miss; even our little hand-held HD camcorder has a blinky light when it’s pointed at someone.
If Michael Allison had spent as much time and effort (and everyone else’s money, as he has utilized court-appointed attorneys, being dead broke from what happened to him in Bridgeport years ago [which was a REAL injustice, incidentally, as everything in the ’port is], and court-appointed = taxpayer’s money) attempting to lobby and get the laws changed in this state instead of fighting his impossible battle, he’d have probably accomplished it by now.
If Michael Allison had put this much effort into running for state representative last year on the platform that he was going to get this ridiculous law changed, he’d have made more progress toward it than what he’s making right now, Cop Watch, ACLU and Alex Jones coverage notwithstanding.
But instead, he’s twisting in the wind, making the taxpayers pay for it, and causing basically a nuisance. It would be one thing if this guy were merely a wronged citizen….and were articulate….and came across as having a modicum of intelligence.
But he doesn’t. He’s hard-headed, annoying and refuses to listen to reason, like what we gave to him years ago.
So to anyone who’s thinking of doing something similar, here’s our advice: if you wanna change the law, change the law.
But don’t violate it, then spend years and time and effort and attorneys and taxpayers’ money trying to get it changed after the fact.
And don’t think a media circus is going to help, because it isn’t.
We know that.
Why do you think this is the only reference we’ve made to the case so far?
Here are some links to pages where Allison's story has grown in proportions and distortions (lies) as time has progressed. Please feel free to post comments on these pages and let them know that you've read the truth about Michael Allison here and wish they'd give us a call and find out more from the people who were there with him from ground zero, advising him to quit his surreptitious AUDIO recording of public officials:
http://www.theblaze.com/stories/illinois-man-faces-75-years-in-jail-for-filming-police/ (where Glenn Beck's writer claims Allison faces jail for "filming" police! This is the article we read that prompted us to put up these links, because of the utter distortion and misinformation going on here.)
Short URL: http://www.disclosurenewsonline.com/?p=9349