The Illegal Phone Recording: Basics
- I skimmed over the "Dossier" an anonymous Latino law student assembled to try to get Professor Chua in trouble, It's pretty amazing. It doesn't reflect badly on Professor Chua at all, but it sure does reflect badly on the author. We get a picture of someone who lies to a fellow student who seems to be a pretty close friend and to secretly hate and be envious of him. The Dossier Writer is an unabashed snake, whom nobody would want to have as a fellow office secretary, much less employ as a lawyer. His legal skills are also called into question by his confession to a criminal act: illegal phone recording.
Here's the relevant passage from the Dossier (my boldfacing):
John Doe sends me a Signal around 3 PM asking me to have a quick call. I assume that, somehow, it had leaked out that I went forward, and so I record the call in case I'm either blackmailed or threatened with retaliation. On the call, John Doe asks if I've told anyone about his dinner with Chua. I deny it, and say that I did not tell anybody but think it is a widely known rumor, as shown by the fact I already heard about it from someone else. ...My friend sends the recording from John Doe, which confirmed that he attended the dinner, and the Signal from Jane Doe admitting I knew about her going, to Dean Cosgrove.
There are several interesting features to this passage. Note, first, that according to John Doe, Jane Doe, and Amy Chua, there was no "dinner". Rather, the students visited Professor Chua in the afternoon, bringing a bottle of wine which they drank but she didn't, and she served them some snacks, but nobody else, including her husband, was in the room.
- First, it is an example of the closeness between the Dossier Writer and John Doe. John Doe seems amazed at the possibility his friend the Dossier Writer might be the one who turned him in, but the Dossier Writer tells an elaborate lie to him and intends to use everything he says against him.
- Second, the Dossier writer tells us that he recorded the call "in case I'm either blackmailed or threatened with retaliation," but on the same page he says that the same day he has another friend (since he wants to cover his own tracks and keep spying on John Doe) send the recording to Dean Cosgrove, the administrator investigating John Doe, to "confirm that he attended the dinner," The Dossier Writer doesn't notice that he has revealed his true motivation to us just a few sentences after his self-justifying claim that the recording was for defensive, not offensive, purposes!
- Third, in Connecticut it is illegal for one person to record a phone conversation with another person without their consent.
Connecticut recording law stipulates that at least one party’s consent is required to record an in-person conversation. Failure to comply with this law is regarded as eavesdropping. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 53a-187(a)(2).
Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-570d(a) Connecticut recognizes civil actions concerning illegal recording of private telephonic communications.
Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-570d(c): Persons who illegally record telephonic conversations may be liable to the aggrieved individuals for damages and litigation costs including reasonable attorney’s fee.
Conn. Gen. Stat. § 53a-189: Eavesdropping (wiretapping or mechanical overhearing) in Connecticut is classed as a Class D felony which carries a sentence of 1 to 5 years.
Conn. Gen. Stat. § 53a-188: Tampering with private communications by obtaining contents of a private communication without the consent of the sender or receiver or by divulging the contents or nature of a telephonic or telegraphic communication to another person is considered a Class A misdemeanor which a carries a sentence of up to 1 year in jail.
("Connecticut Recording Laws," Recordinglaw.com.)
The Illegal Phone Recording: Details from the Connecticut Statutes
Going to the Statutes themselves at CT Gen Stat § 53a-189 (2019):
(a) A person is guilty of eavesdropping when he unlawfully engages in wiretapping or mechanical overhearing of a conversation.
(b) Eavesdropping is a class D felony.
See Sec. 52-570d re prohibition on recording private telephonic communications and civil remedies for violation thereof.
Thus, we go to CT Gen Stat § 52-570d (2019) for details of what "eavesdropping" means:
(a) No person shall use any instrument, device or equipment to record an oral private telephonic communication unless the use of such instrument, device or equipment
(1) is preceded by consent of all parties to the communication and such prior consent either is obtained in writing or is part of, and obtained at the start of, the recording, or
(2) is preceded by verbal notification which is recorded at the beginning and is part of the communication by the recording party, or
(3) is accompanied by an automatic tone warning device which automatically produces a distinct signal that is repeated at intervals of approximately fifteen seconds during the communication while such instrument, device or equipment is in use.
(b) The provisions of subsection (a) of this section shall not apply to:
(3) Any person who, as the recipient of a telephonic communication which conveys threats of extortion, bodily harm or other unlawful requests or demands, records such telephonic communication;
(4) Any person who, as the recipient of a telephonic communication which occurs repeatedly or at an extremely inconvenient hour, records such telephonic communication;
(c) Any person aggrieved by a violation of subsection (a) of this section may bring a civil action in the Superior Court to recover damages, together with costs and a reasonable attorney's fee.
In sum, it seems from what he said that the Dossier Writer has committed a class D felony by recording the phone conversation and a class A misdemeanor by divulging it to another person. If Dean Cosgrove divulged the conversation to another person, she, too, would have committed a class A misdemeanor, though we have no evidence on that point.
The Dossier Writer could be sued in a civil action. As a student, he probably is judgement proof at the moment; as a Yale Law student, he may well be rich before the statute of limitations is up, and especially by the time the trial is over if the suit is filed toward the end of the statute of limitations. (On the other hand, if this incident results in the Bar deciding he is morally unfit to take the bar exam, he might not be rich after all.) As for Dean Cosgrove, she would not be judgement proof, but it is unclear to me whether she would be liable under part (c) if she divulged the contents to yet another party, since she did not make the recording herself. Probably a bit of searching would clear that up, but this is enough for now.
- "STUDENT & ALUMNI LETTERS" from 2021.
- 2021 Atlantic article, investigative reporting that shows how a student betrayed his friend so as to try to bring down Chua. The Yale Law administration is evil.
- Summary of 5 articles from 2020 by David Lat at Substack.
- Lawsuit Complaint against Dean Gerken for retaliation against two anonymous law students for not agreeing to lie about Professor Chua.
- The "Dossier" a student assembled to try to get Professor Chua in trouble, which appears now in the Doe lawsuit against Dean Gerken.