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Wiretapping complaint involving Pittsboro, Plainfield police will continue

March 8, 2018

A wiretapping complaint against a Plainfield police captain will continue after a district court judge partially denied the captain’s motion to dismiss.

The case of Jason Stumm, et al. v. Town of Pittsboro, et al., 1:17-cv-04296, began in late 2016, when Pittsboro Police Chief Christi Patterson and Major Scott King installed surveillance cameras in the front of the Pittsboro Police building. Though the force was told the cameras could only capture video, Patterson and King began secretly recording and listening to conversations captured by the cameras.

Meanwhile, former Officer Matthew Stumm began obtaining official documents to prove his suspicion that Patterson and King were being paid for hours they did not work. In response, Patterson filed a report accusing Stumm of defaming a fellow officer and asked Plainfield Police Captain Carri Weber to investigate the alleged misconduct.

Weber interviewed Stumm as part of her investigation and informed him that she had listened to his recorded conversations about Patterson and King — including conversations with then-fellow officers Jason Stumm and Brian Helmer — and advised him that he could obtain copies of the recordings. Weber’s investigation began in February 2017, and Patterson recommended Stumm’s termination in October 2017.

The trio of officers then filed a complaint against Pittsboro, Patterson, King and Weber, alleging violations of their Fourth Amendment Rights and of the Federal Wiretap Act. Weber moved to dismiss the claims brought by all three plaintiffs, but Indiana Southern District Chief Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson allowed Matthew Stumm’s claims to proceed in a Thursday ruling.

Looking first to the claims alleged by Helmer and Jason Stumm, Magnus-Stinson rejected their “hypothesis” that Weber had listened to recorded conversations they had with Matthew Stumm and instead found no plausible allegation that they were entitled to relief. However, the chief judge rejected Weber’s similar claim that Matthew Stumm also failed to state a claim against her.

Weber argued that Matthew Stumm failed to allege she knew or had reason to know the recordings were made in violation of the Federal Wiretap Act. Though that was true, Magnus-Stinson wrote Thursday that Weber’s argument did not hold the Stumm’s complaint to the appropriate standard of plausibility.

“The Court finds that, consistent with the allegations contained in the Complaint, it is plausible that Captain Weber knew or had reason to knew that the recordings were illegally intercepted,” she wrote. “For example, Plaintiffs’ Complaint alleges that Captain Weber began her investigation at the request of Chief Patterson and that she later ‘informed’ Matthew Stumm that his conversations had been recorded. It is therefore plausible that Captain Weber possessed the requisite scienter such that her use and disclosure of the documents were not permitted by 18 U.S.C. section 2517(1).”

Thus, Weber’s motion to dismiss was denied as it related to Matthew Stumm, but dismissed without prejudice in regard to the other plaintiffs. Helmer and Jason Stumm were given 30 days to amend their complaint before their claims will be dismissed with prejudice.

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