Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Contorted Case of John Large Under Antiquated Wiretapping Laws

PA - Concerned about the care his disabled daughter was receiving in a Bethlehem nursing home, John Large set out last June to register his complaint with an administrator.

Tired of the he-said-she-said nature of their previous conversations, Large went to the HCR Manor Care facility on Westgate Drive prepared to make a recording of the meeting.

Unbeknownst to Patricia Zurick, the director of nursing services, Large used a video recording device concealed in a pair of glasses to capture the sometimes heated hourlong discussion, court papers say.

No one would have been any the wiser except that Large mailed a DVD containing the footage to an FBI field office in Scranton, according to court documents.

The FBI saw the video as a potential violation of wiretap laws, Large's attorney said. Agents forwarded the DVD to Bethlehem police, who charged Large with intercepting communications and possession of a device for intercepting communications.

Large, 50, of Lansford, was held in Carbon County Jail until April, when Lehigh County Judge Robert L. Steinberg ordered the charges dismissed.

In his opinion, Steinberg wrote that because Zurick's office door was open — she testified that she left it open because she was scared of Large — she had no expectation of privacy, a crucial element for determining whether a secret recording is illegal. And because investigators never determined what kind of device Large had used to make the video, Steinberg wrote, the charge of possessing a device for intercepting communications could not be sustained.

He added that Pennsylvania's wiretap law is not keeping pace with the widespread adoption of technology such as tablet computers and Google Glass — essentially a smartphone contained in eyeglass frames. more