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Monday, December 15, 2014

Ind. Courts - "LaPorte prosecutors sued for alleged eavesdropping"

That is the headline to Madeline Buckeley's long weekend story in the South Bend Tribune. Some quotes:

Arrested on suspicion of murder, LaPorte County resident John Larkin agreed to an interview with Long Beach police officers with his attorney present. The Long Beach man gave a statement, but then privately conferred with his attorney when police left the room.

Unbeknownst to both him and his attorney, police and prosecutors recorded the private conversation and later listened to it while building a case against the man, a recently filed lawsuit alleges. Larkin is currently charged with voluntary manslaughter in connection with the 2012 shooting death of his wife. He says the shooting was in self-defense.

Court records show prosecutors listened to 12 minutes of conversation between Larkin and his attorney in what the lawsuit alleges was a violation of attorney-client privilege, as well as state and federal law.

The lawsuit accuses the LaPorte County prosecutor's office of eavesdropping on conversations between defendants and attorneys that take place at police stations or the county jail, noting at least one other example.

"It is a very egregious situation that should be addressed," said Chicago attorney Gregory E. Kulis, who filed the civil rights complaint on behalf of Larkin.

Prosecutors in March charged Brian J. Taylor with murder in the shooting death of a 24-year-old woman. Court documents show that Taylor told his attorney where he disposed of the gun during what they believed was a private conference at the police station. Police listened to the conversation and retrieved the gun.

Taylor's lawyers challenged the issue, and the Indiana Court of Appeals is hearing the case in a rare interlocutory appeal, which means the court takes the case before it is adjudicated. Taylor was released from jail while his appeal progresses.

The attorneys handling Larkin's criminal case are hoping for the same result, as they are asking the appeals court to hear the case while it is pending in LaPorte Circuit Court.

In the petition to the appeals court that alleges misconduct, Larkin's attorneys ask the court to grant a motion that LaPorte Superior Court Judge Kathleen Lang previously denied: to disqualify LaPorte County prosecutors from handling the case.

"They can't legally or ethically prosecute this case after listening to privileged material," said Chicago lawyer Michael Ettinger, one of Larkin's defense attorneys. * * *

Court records show deputy prosecutor Robert Neary said in court he listened to the recording, as well as Prosecutor Bob Szilagyi, deputy prosecutor Kristen Armstrong and an intern, Stephen Wicks. Armstrong later denied listening to the recording, though the defense's petition to the appeals court said her signature was on a document that contained a transcript of the 12-minute conversation.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on December 15, 2014 12:38 PM
Posted to Indiana Courts