Judge wired over recordings

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 9, 2004

EUTAW – A new telephone system in the Greene County Courthouse may have been put to illegal purposes.

At least that’s what District Judge Lillie Jones-Osborne contends in a July 6, 2004 letter to Commissioner Chip Beeker.

In the letter obtained by The Times, Osborne contends “that an unknown person within the courthouse has been recording the telephone conversations of the various offices in the courthouse including the District and Juvenile Court.”

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She contends that the new telephone system was purchases because of the system’s capability to monitor and record calls.

“I am outraged that telephone conversations were being recorded in my office especially conversations that are confidential and should have never been recorded,” she states in her letter.

She requested Beeker launch and “immediate” investigation.

Beeker said he’s done just that with Sheriff Johnny Isaac, and the investigation would “include any agencies necessary.”

Beeker, who received the letter Tuesday, said he thought the new system protected privacy of the calls and prevented such an event from happening.

“We didn’t get the system because we could record and monitor. I thought there was no way to breech privacy, but someone read in one of the books that the phones could record and monitor calls,” he said.

Beeker said once courthouse officials discovered the feature, it was deactivated so calls could no longer be recorded or monitored.

“Looking into it, we found several employees who had heard beeping or some sort of tone in the phones,” he said.

Jones-Osborne, who could not be reached Thursday for comment, said in her letter that if the Beeker did not respond to her letter “in a reasonable amount of time,” she would request the attorney general’s office to investigate, and state she forwarded her letter to Circuit Judge Eddie Hardaway, the Administrative Office of Courts Legal Department and to District Attorney Greg Griggers.

Reached by phone, Griggers, who has been out of his office this week , said he was unaware of the letter or the situation in Greene County, but would look into the issue when he returned to work on Monday.

“We’ll certainly take a look at it,” he said.