Police tape flap goes before a judge

The South Bend police tape scandal has been months in the making, and today was the day the ordeal was finally set to go before a judge.

While a hearing did take place today, it was very short.

“It’s frustrating,” said E. Spencer Walton, Jr., an attorney who represents the South Bend Common Council in its efforts to make the tapes public.

“Late Thursday afternoon, we received their (South Bend city administration) motion to stay the proceedings, which essentially asks the court to stop the activity that we had, which is compelling the production of the tapes,” Walton said.

The city administration believes that the case belongs in U.S. District Court because federal statutes cover wiretapping.

The Common Council had no choice but to take the case to St. Joseph Circuit Court where today’s brief hearing was held.

Well the action belongs right here in terms of our right here, in terms of our right under the statute to file a motion to compel, our only redress is to go to the circuit court to compel the production of the evidence that we seek. They chose to go to U.S. District Court on their own, which was their choice, not ours,” said Walton.

Today’s circuit court hearing was continued until October 2nd, which is Tuesday of next week. If the motion of the city administration succeeds, that means the second hearing in circuit court could be the last.

“We had a very brief continuance until next Monday, we have to file our response and the hearing’s going to be next Tuesday which is eight days away now,” said Walton.

The legal brief of the city administration states that it is not advocating for or against the disclosure of the tapes, but rather advocating for prudence, caution and deference.

While the South Bend Common Council is seeking the tapes “used in the demotion and employment termination” of former Police Chief Darrel Boykins, and former police Communications Director Karen DePaepe, the tapes allegedly contain the conversations of a South Bend police officer and his wife.

The brief of the city administration notes that the officer and his wife are not part of the litigation in the St. Joseph Circuit Court, and that their privacy interests are not being represented.

The city administration also points out that the tapes are in a safe deposit box at a local bank, and that no one from the city administration has listened to the tapes.

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