Illinois Eavesdropping Law Passed by Shiela Simon’s Mother Found Unconstitutional

The 1957 eavesdropping bill that Sheila Simon’s mother, State Rep. Jeanne Hurley, sponsored has been declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Federal Appeals Court in Chicago.

The story of how Jeanne Hurley was tricked by legislators who wanted to prevent reporters from getting another tape recording such as was given Chicago reporter Jack Mabley about the Currency Exchange bribes to legislators.

Ever heard of Roland Libonati?

He was a state senator while Jeanne Hurley, later Mrs. Paul Simon, was state representative from Evanston.  Libonati later became a member of Congress representing the West Side of Chicago.

I met him in the Springfield train station after session adjourned for the week one day in the 1970’s. He had been visiting old friends, sitting next to Larry DiPrima in the back row where the”Royal Order of the Mushrooms” sat.

At the train station, DiPrima introduced me to Libonati.

After a while he warmed up to me, concluding that this Republican wasn’t a threat and started tell old war stories.

He told of how some non-reformers convinced Jeanne Hurley  to introduce legislation to limit secret tape recording. Here are the two I suppose he was referring to two 1957 bills, House Bills 1210 and 1211 (click to enlarge the Digest listings and look at the list of reformers sponsoring the bill):

The idea came up after Chicago American reporter Jack Mabley had written a series of stories on corruption. Someone taped  legislators talking in their hotel rooms.

“The tapes had been stashed in lockers at the Greyhound bus station. Mabley got the keys anonymously,”

Statehouse reporter Ray Long wrote for the April, 1996, Illinois Issues when he was working for the Associated Press.

Hotel rooms had transoms at that time and the legislature’s verbal history has it that those willing to be bribed left their transoms open so lobbyists could toss money into the room.

Needless to say, Libonati, reportedly a member of the West Side Blocbeholding to the Crime Syndicate did not convey that tale.

But he did say that his friends had snookered the woman who married Paul Simon into sponsoring legislation that he and his allies wanted passed.

He laughed as he explained that she thought it was a “good government” bill.

And, perhaps you will laugh at what Long printed about what former Governor and now sometimes lobbyist Jim Thompson told him:

“There’s no question that back decades ago Illinois, like many states, was kind of a wild and woolly place. My guess is today it’s probably about as clean as you can get.”

That was before the George Ryan, Tony Rezko and Rod Blagojevich trials, of course.

And, while we’re talking about eavesdropping, let’s not forget the legislators who voted against loosening the law this year:

Besides House Republican Leader Tom Cross, State Reps. representing parts of McHenry County who voted against the reform bill include Kent Gaffney and Tim Schmidt. Democrat Jack Franks was missing from the House floor today. State Rep. Mike Tryon voted in favor of the measure.

Here’s how the synopsis describes the bill:

“Provides that a person who is not a law enforcement officer nor acting at the direction of a law enforcement officer may record the conversation of a law enforcement officer who is performing a public duty in a public place and any other person who is having a conversation with that law enforcement officer if the conversation is at a volume audible to the unassisted ear of the person who is making the recording.”


Illinois Eavesdropping Law Passed by Shiela Simon’s Mother Found Unconstitutional — 3 Comments

  1. I’m a 14 year policeman, and I wholeheartedly support this bill and the 7th Circuit’s decision regarding the existing law.

  2. The has issued an informational video and a press release, to help the media and the general public in the upcoming oral argument at the Illinois Supreme Court hearing in Annabel Melongo’s eavesdropping case. The hearing is scheduled for January 14th, 2014, at the 18th floor of the Michael A. Bilandic Building, 160 N. LaSalle Street, Chicago at 9.30 am.

    Press Release:

    Please support this cause. The Illinois Eavesdropping law at its very core creates a two-class legal system wherein the conversations of the powerful and well-connected are protected to the detriment of the less powerful. The upcoming oral argument presents a unique opportunity for the common citizen to re-establish that legal balance that will unequivocally establish a right to record public officials in their public duties.

    Therefore, please contribute to this all-important hearing by either attending it, writing about it, spreading the word or just forwarding the below video and press release to anybody who might be of any help.

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