KANKAKEE (Illinois News Network) — An Illinois teen won’t face felony eavesdropping charges for recording a talk with a school principal after prosecutors decided to drop the matter Thursday after the case got national attention.
Kankakee County State’s Attorney Jim Rowe dismissed the charges against 14-year-old Paul Boron. When Boron was 13, he was called into Manteno Middle School Principal David Conrad’s office. Boron told Conrad that he had been recording with his phone. The principal told Boron that he was committing a felony and ended the meeting. Two months later, Boron was charged with eavesdropping, which is a Class 4 felony in Illinois.
Boron’s mother, Leah McNally, said she was relieved.
“I feel like it’s one step closer to justice,” she said. “It’s been a daunting one, unfortunately, for him. He’s been worried about what they may try to do and possibly being convicted and destroying a lot of his future.”
Manteno Superintendent Lisa Harrod wasn’t available to comment on the decision to dismiss the case. Rowe said he’s not able to discuss details of juvenile cases because of confidentiality laws.
Illinois is what’s known as a two-party consent state, meaning that recording someone without permission in even a semi-private area is a Class 4 felony. The key term in the law is a “reasonable expectation of privacy.” Recording a phone call, for instance, would likely be a felony.
Boron was defended by David Camic, an Elgin defense attorney and Illinois Policy Institute Senior Fellow. The nonprofit organization has advocated for reform of the state laws on eavesdropping, arranged Boron’s defense and crowdfunded for the effort.
“The school district made the right decision by dismissing its charges against Paul. Paul spent a summer no 13 year old should have had to endure, with a felony hanging over his head simply because he recorded a conversation with his principals,” said Austin Berg, director of content strategy for the institute. “Supporters from around the nation rallied around Paul to share their concerns over how extreme the charge was. We’re grateful to those who jumped in to support Paul’s great legal defense and helped him get this happy ending.”
After hearing of the charges, advocates for the state’s existing consent rules said officials should not have weaponized the law in this case.
“To criminalize this young man and make a felon out of him is something we can unequivocally say is the wrong thing to do,” ACLU of Illinois attorney Ben Ruddell said.
The case, Berg said, highlights the flaws in Illinois’ eavesdropping law.
“Unfortunately, the vague wording of the law means this is likely not the last we’ll hear of such harsh consequences for harmless recording incidents,” he said. “Without action from Springfield, more Illinoisans are in danger of getting caught in the law’s crosshairs.”
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