First federal court hearing held on S.B. police tapes case

A decision on the legality of recorded phone calls from the South Bend Police Department could come in about nine months.

It was about nine months ago that the community first learned of the tapes—following the demotion of then-Chief of Police, Darryl Boykins.

Today, the first hearing was held in the legal case over the status of the tapes in U.S. District Court in South Bend.

The court is being asked to determine if the tapes were recorded legally or illegally and whether they can or can’t be released to the public.

“Well, I was very pleased with the judge that he has adopted an expedited process in order to get down immediately to the legality of the tape recordings,” said E. Spencer Walton, Jr., the attorney who represents the South Bend Common Council in the case.

In this case, “expedited process” and “immediately” translated into federal court speak means that a decision may come by the end of this year.

“The wheels of justice does not often move as fast as people want it to move but as long as it’s moving at the right course, I’m at peace,” said South Bend 6th District Common Councilman Oliver Davis.

Under the timetable laid out today, attorneys were told to finish their ‘discovery’ or information gathering by the 1st of June, to file motions on whether the tapes were or weren’t legal by the 1st of July, and to respond to all motions by the 1st of August. At that point, the case would head to the judge to await a final ruling. “That is compressed,” said South Bend City Attorney Aladean DeRose. “For many court proceedings, sometimes discovery phases can last a year or more so that is a compressed period.”

“On behalf of the council we’re very excited,” said attorney E. Spencer Walton. “We’ve been trying to get to this point for at least nine or ten months now, I’m guessing at least now it’s coming to fruition, at least somebody is going to make a decision on what’s right.”

Today, it was Magistrate Judge Christopher A. Nuechterlein who said he hoped a decision may come by the end of this year, although the eventual decision will come from Judge Joseph VanBokkelen.

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