NEWARK, NJ The deputy director of the Hudson County jail was convicted yesterday of secretly listening to and recording the private phone conversations of leaders of the two unions that represent corrections officers at the jail.
Kirk Eady, 46, of East Brunswick, faces a maximum possible penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine after having been convicted of intentionally intercepting the communications of others by using a prank phone call website’s “Evil Operator” application.
It took jurors just a few hours to come back with its verdict in a trial that lasted one week.
The app allowed a person to enter two phone numbers and make it appear that each was calling the other. The user could then listen to the conversation between the two parties and it was recorded by the application and accessible to the user.
The government’s case included documents showing Eady’s use of the app, payments for the use of the app and the number of union officials connected in phone calls which he then listened to and recorded.
Corrections Officer Latania Freeman, who described herself and Eady as being best friends, testified that Eady told her he was recording personal calls of people related to the union.
When the FBI knocked on her door, she agreed to record her conversations with Eady for the feds.
In one of the calls she recorded for the FBI, the jury heard Eady say in his own words, “It’s a program called Prank Dial and so it’s another app within an app and (with) that app I can listen to people talk. … It’s called Evil Operator. It’s meant as a f—-ing joke, but I used that app as a great resource, two people talking, you know what I’m saying?”
Freeman also told a union official that Eady was recording conversations and that official brought the matter to the attention of the FBI, according to testimony.
Those who testified at the trial were a number of PBA officials from the jail and a representative of the website, who said the Evil Operator feature is no longer available.
The government said Eady used Evil Operator at least 12 times from March 8, 2012 to July 8, 2012. At the time, tensions between the jail administration and the unions was high and the unions had dramatically increased the number of grievances they were filing.
Yesterday morning defense attorney Peter Willis argued that because Eady could have participated in the calls he listened to and recorded, that made him a “party” to the calls and a party to a call can legally record it.
“Now in this technical age we are living in, this is the first time we are facing these issues and judge, there is not a lot of law. There is not a lot of law,” Willis told U.S. District Court Jose Linares. “He could listen, he could talk, he was a party to the call.”
The government’s position is that Eady was not a party to the calls because the other parties were not aware he was listening to their conversation and recording it.
Assistant U.S. Attorney David Foster said the notion that a person can secretly listen to the private phone conversations of other defies “common sense, privacy laws and the expectations of the citizens of this county.”
Linares decided to reserve from making a decision on the defense motion, saying that if Eady is found not guilty, it will not matter anyway and “If (Willis’) legal definition is correct, then I can make that decision later.”
After yesterday’s verdict, Willis said the judge is to make a ruling on his motion in three weeks. He said if the judge finds that Eady was a party to the calls, there will be a new trial.
Eady’s sentencing date has not yet been set.
From The Jersey Journal