The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department has unplugged a system that records all phone calls from jail inmates after outraged defense lawyers realized their conversations with clients also were being recorded, reports the San Diego Union-Tribune. The Sheriff’s Department said the recordings, which defense lawyers say are privileged conversations protected by law, were made because of an inadvertent glitch in the telephone system. Defense lawyers said the eavesdropping is a felony and can carry penalties of up to $5,000 per call.
They are concerned that prosecutors – who have access to the recording system from their desktop computers – could have been privy to conversations, too. Jim McMahon, a lawyer with the county Alternate Public Defender, said he found out that his calls with a client were recorded when he heard them on a disc provided by prosecutors. “So imagine my surprise,” he said. “I’m listening to the phone calls and up comes one with my voice, talking one-on-one with my client about trial strategy.” Last year, in a newsletter analyzing recent court cases, prosecutor Robert Phillips said that listening to attorney-client talks is a felony and “a serious no-no.”