SBPD wiretapping case

SBPD wiretapping case (WSBT-TV Photo / June 15, 2012)

Explosive developments in the federal wiretapping investigation into recording policies at South Bend’s police department as the Metro Homicide Commander, three police officers and one of their wives claim they are victims in the case.

Commander Tim Corbett, Assistant Commander and South Bend Police Lt. Dave Wells, Detective Bureau Division Chief Steve Richmond, Detective Brian Young and his wife Sandy Young have taken the first step in filing a lawsuit against the city.

Through their attorneys, Pfeifer, Morgan & Stesiak, the five filed separate tort claim notices this week. 

A tort claim notice is a legal step anyone must take before they sue a municipality, warning the city that a lawsuit may happen and explaining which laws they believe were broken.

In the letters dated June 11, all give claim they talked on a phone line they didn’t know was being recorded “for an undetermined period of time,” which violates state and federal wiretapping laws. According to the letters, they became aware that the phone line was recorded on Jan. 6.

WSBT learned that phone line belonged to Young, and his wife is listed as a victim because she called him on it.

The letters also allege the five “sustained damage to (their) reputation(s) resulting in a hostile work environment.”

They’re asking for damages for each offense – meaning each time they were recorded in a conversation without their knowledge, each time someone made a copy of any of those conversations and each time someone listened to one of those conversations.

Four lines in the letters are redacted, or blacked out. The city attorney’s office said it did so Friday because of personnel reasons. 

The wiretapping scandal broke at the end of March when Mayor Buttigieg demoted Police Chief Darryl Boykins and later fired Communications Director Karen DePaepe.  Buttigieg said federal investigators told him making personnel changes would keep federal charges from being filed. 

DePaepe has said she stumbled across conversations she felt were offensive on the phone line that was mistakenly recorded in the detective bureau.

Earlier this month, United States Attorney for Northern Indiana David Capp said in a letter neither Boykins nor DePaepe would be prosecuted.

The man who wrote the Federal Wiretap Act recently told WSBT the recorded conversations DePaepe found offensive will never be played publicly, which means we are no closer to finding out what’s on them.  But Dan Pfeifer, one of the attorneys who represents the five, told WSBT “I don’t care what's on the tapes, it makes no difference to me what's on the tapes. It's the fact that it was illegally recorded."

Pfeifer also said neither he nor anyone in his office have heard the recordings.

When reached by phone Friday, Corbett and Wells declined to comment on the matter and referred WSBT to their attorney. 

The city has 90 days from the file date to respond to the claim or, according to the letters, the officers, Corbett and Young’s wife will move forward with the lawsuit.