A former detainee at a Wisconsin jail filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the sheriff’s office and district attorney’s office, alleging authorities recorded privileged conversations between him and his attorney, then shared those calls with prosecutors.
In the lawsuit filed in federal court, Brett Lieberman, who was detained at the Portage County Jail, alleges his constitutional and civil rights were violated when officials recorded the calls with his attorney. He claims prosecutors used information in the privileged conversations to argue for an increase in his bail.
According to the lawsuit, the Portage County Sheriff’s Office has been systemically recording and storing every detainee phone call at the jail — including calls with detainees and attorneys — since at least 2010, when the department contracted with an outside vendor on a system to record, monitor, store and access detainee phone calls. The lawsuit claims every call was recorded, despite the ability to disable recording for specified numbers.
The lawsuit seeks class-action status for any people who were at the jail from 2012 to the present and who have spoken to their attorneys on jail telephones. It also seeks monetary damages and a court order that would stop the Sheriff’s Office from recording calls between detainees and their attorneys.
“In this country, and this is an important right in this country … you are not supposed to record a conversation between an attorney and a client,” said Steven Hart, Lieberman’s attorney in this case. He said in doing so, law enforcement violated the detainees’ rights.
“It’s pretty outrageous behavior,” he said. “This is an important issue for all the citizens of Wisconsin. When Big Brother starts recording your calls that are presumptively privileged, and using calls against you, no one is safe.”
Sheriff Mike Lukas said Tuesday he had no comment because he hadn’t been served with the lawsuit and didn’t know what it was about. Cory Nelson, the jail administrator who is also named in the lawsuit, had no comment.
District Attorney Louis Molepske said Lieberman had made a similar claim in state court to no avail.
Online court records indicate the 37-year-old Lieberman was in the Portage County Jail from August 2014 to January 2016 as he awaited trial and sentencing on a second-degree reckless endangerment charge. Since his sentencing in January 2016, he has been at the prison in Fox Lake.