A New Hampshire activist was found guilty on Monday in connection with recording telephone conversations with public officials without their consent and sentenced to 90 days in jail. A state legislator present in court said the "travesty" fueled him to further push for legislation to change the state's law requiring all-party consent in recordings.
The jury deliberated for about 50 minutes before finding Adam Mueller — the founder of CopBlock.org, a website that monitors alleged abuses by police across the country — guilty of three counts of felony wiretapping, according to prosecutor Michael Valentine.
On top of the 90-day sentence, Hillsborough County Superior Court Judge Kenneth Brown also handed down a suspended sentence of one to three years, which states that the activist, to avoid serving that jail time, cannot have any new felony or misdemeanor arrests or serious motor vehicle violations for five years. As part of his sentence, Mueller also cannot contact the two school officials he recorded as well as the police captain on non-police related issues.
Mueller, who represented himself, admitted in court to recording the three officials and posting the recordings on CopBlock.org last fall. The 30-year-old called the three officials for comment after an incident at Manchester West High School, in which a school resource officer allegedly used excessive force on a 17-year-old student. The police department later determined that the officer did not use excessive force.
"I was stunned at the inappropriate use of state power in a case where there was no victim," said state Rep. Mark Warden who attended Mueller's one-day trial.
Warden is scheduled to testify before a house subcommittee on Wednesday about the wiretapping and eavesdropping law, which was previously challenged in two different bills but failed to pass when legislators could not agree on the language. A new bill to remove the all-party consent requirement is expected to go before the house when it reconvenes in January, according to Warden.
"The changes we want to see would increase accountability and transparency among public officials and government employees," he said. "The current statutes are stacked in favor of law enforcement and against citizens."
Mueller — who faced up to 21 years in prison for the illegal recordings — said in court that government officials should not have an expectation of privacy when they're on the job, according to Ian Freeman, who was present at the trial and Mueller's co-host on the radio talk show, Free Talk Live.
"That law deserves to be broken," Freeman said in an interview. "Look at Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks — history has born heroes who did not take the law at face value."
The Manchester, N.H., Police Department did not return a phone call seeking comment. Mueller, who goes by the name "Ademo Freeman," could also not be reached for comment.
Related Reporters Committee resources:
· Can We Tape?: New Hampshire