South Bend council seeks release of recordings of officers at center of wiretapping case


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SOUTH BEND, Indiana — Attorneys for South Bend's city council are seeking the immediate release of telephone recordings at the center of the city's police wiretapping case.

A motion filed Friday asks a St. Joseph County judge to lift a stay on a subpoena for the recordings, the South Bend Tribune reported ( ). The case stems from allegations that accidental recordings of a police department phone line may have captured high-ranking officers making racist comments about the police chief and discussing breaking the law.

The city asked for the stay in 2012, saying it wanted a federal judge to decide whether releasing the recordings would violate the U.S. Wiretap Act. Earlier this month, a federal judge ruled that the police department violated the law by continuing to record telephone conversations after learning the line was being inadvertently taped.

But the judge said recordings made on or before Feb. 4, 2011, didn't violate the law and could be released because nobody intended to record the line.

Just one of the recordings at the center of the case falls within that timeframe, but more calls likely exist on servers at the police department, according to Ed Sullivan, an attorney for the city. On Friday, the council issued a second subpoena for those recordings as well.

"The digital system has 11 months — with the court's decision — of legally recorded conversations that we're asking to be produced," said E. Spencer Walton, an attorney for the city's Common Council.

Walton said the council needs to listen to the conversations on those recordings before deciding whether to also appeal for the release of the later recordings.

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg has said the city will not release any of the recordings until the 30-day window to appeal the federal judge's decision closes on Feb. 13.

"The administration's position is to release as much material as lawfully possible, according to the appropriate legal processes," Buttigieg spokeswoman Kara Kelly said. "If the police officers or the council decide to initiate further legal actions, the mayor's position will not change."

Dan Pfeifer, an attorney representing four police officers who contend their conversations were illegally recorded, said he intends to file a motion to intervene in the case.

The wiretapping case has cost taxpayers about $1.6 million in attorney fees and to settle three lawsuits, and led to then-Police Chief Darryl Boykins being demoted.

Former police communications director Karen DePaepe has said in court documents that the recordings capture high-ranking officers making racist comments about Boykins, who is black, and discussing breaking the law.

Information from: South Bend Tribune,

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