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Salisbury student charged with illegally recording conversation with Congressman Andy Harris staffer

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Posted at 11:16 AM, Feb 14, 2019

TOWSON, Md. — A Salisbury University student has been charged with illegally wiretapping a meeting with a Congressional staffer.

The office of the State Prosecutor and the Wicomico County State’s Attorney’s Office accuse Jake Burdett of illegally wiretapping a meeting he had with a staff member for Congressman Andy Harris, a Republican member of the House of Representatives from Maryland’s First Congressional District, which encompasses the entirety of the state’s Eastern Shore. The case was referred to the State Prosecutor by the county state’s attorney.

Burdett participated in a rally in front of Harris’ Salisbury office. The 20 year old is an advocate for Maryland Marijuana Justice, prosecutors said. A staff member of Harris’ office came out to speak to the group and offered to meet with their members. Burdett and a few others agreed to join the meeting in a location that could only fit a limited number of people. Other members of Harris’ staff told participants in the meeting to put away their phones, as recording in the office was against office policy.

Burdett, however, did not disable his phone, instead recording the entire meeting and streaming it on Facebook Live without the consent of the staff member who conducted the proceeding, the prosecutor’s release said. Maryland is one of a minority of states that adheres to “two-party consent” when recording phone calls, video chats, or in-person conversations. This means all parties participating in the dialogue have to knowingly agree to be recorded. Recording such conversations without full consent, and disseminating such information publicly, is illegal. Burdett was ultimately charged with illegal recording of the staff member and the illegal distribution of the recording.

“We need to ensure people are respecting the boundaries set by Maryland’s wiretapping laws,” State Prosecutor Emmet Davitt said in a statement.