Illinois woman faces 15 years in prison for trying to hold cop accountable

Tiawanda Moore, a 20-year-old Illinois resident, was arrested after recording her attempt to file a complaint about an officer who sexually harassed her. She faces a maximum of 15 years in prison.

Ms. Moore’s case is more complicated and “disturbing,” said her lawyer, Robert W. Johnson, who is representing her pro bono.

Ms. Moore lived with her boyfriend at the time of the incident and theirs was a stormy relationship, filled with fights and visits by the police, Mr. Johnson said. Last July, the boyfriend called the police and said he wanted Ms. Moore out of his house. But by the time the police arrived, Mr. Johnson said, the couple had calmed down. Still, one of the officers talked to Ms. Moore upstairs while his partner interviewed the boyfriend.

On Aug. 18, Ms. Moore and her boyfriend went to Police Headquarters to file a complaint with Internal Affairs about the officer who had talked to her alone. Ms. Moore said the officer had fondled her and left his personal telephone number, which she handed over to the investigators.

Ms. Moore said the investigators tried to talk her out of filing a complaint, saying the officer had a good record and that they could “guarantee” that he would not bother her again.

“They keep giving her the run-around, basically trying to discourage her from making a report,” Mr. Johnson said. “Finally, she decides to record them on her cellphone to show how they’re not helping her.”

The investigators discovered that she was recording them and she was arrested and charged with two counts of eavesdropping, Mr. Johnson said. But he added that the law contains a crucial exception. If citizens have “reasonable suspicion” that a crime is about to be committed against them, they may obtain evidence by recording it.

“I contend that the Internal Affairs investigators were committing the crime of official misconduct in preventing her from filing a complaint,” Mr. Johnson said. “She’s young. She had no idea what she was getting into when she went in there to make a simple complaint. It’s just a shame when the people watching the cops aren’t up to it.”

Days later, accompanied by Mr. Johnson, Ms. Moore returned to Internal Affairs and was able to file a full complaint. There is a continuing investigation of Ms. Moore’s charges against the officer, a Police Department spokesman said.

Meanwhile, Ms. Moore is in Cook County Jail after another domestic dispute with her boyfriend, Mr. Johnson said.

In a tearful telephone interview from jail, Ms. Moore said that when she went to Internal Affairs she was only trying to make sure no other women suffered at the hands of the officer.

“I’m scared,” she said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen now. I don’t want to be in jail. I want to make my parents happy and proud of me.”

— Don Terry, “Eavesdropping Laws Mean That Turning On an Audio Recorder Could Send You to Prison” (Jan. 22nd, 2011), The New York Times

How do you like that? A cop is accused of sexually harassing a woman while on duty and the police do everything they can to prevent the victim from even filing a complaint. Yet when a woman merely records public officials in a public place and clearly has a good reason to be doing so, they have no problem immediately arresting her and charging her with a felony that carries a potentially decade and a half long prison sentence. I guess we know who these cops are really serving and protecting: themselves.


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