Student charged with wiretapping to get probation
SALISBURY, Md. – The 21 year old Salisbury University student charged with wiretapping a congressman’s Salisbury office spoke exclusively with 47 ABC on Thursday night.
Howard County native Jake Burdett’s mistake during an October marijuana legalization rally at the office of Republican Congressman Andy Harris isn’t a secret and it isn’t something he denies.
“We were live streaming because it was a protest in public and then they invite six of us into the office and I continued to live stream,” said Burdett. “They told us they didn’t want us to live stream or they would escort us out but the way they phrased it made it sound like a personal request or an office policy and not a law. I had no idea it was a law in the state of Maryland.”
Burdett says he realized he had broken the state’s wiretapping law within 24 hours and immediately deleted it before calling the Congressman’s staff to apologize. Weeks later he found out he was being charged with wiretapping, a crime in Maryland that could land you behind bars for five years.
“I was scared because I didn’t realize at the moment that what I was doing was against the law,” said Burdett.
Burdett says that he won’t be locked up and instead will take probation before judgement, which means he’ll be on thin ice while also being required to do community service. For Congressman Harris, the punishment fits the crime.
“Mr. Burdett is a college student,” said Rep. Harris during a local town hall on Wednesday night. “I think he should be old and mature enough to understand that when someone asks him not to do something, to respect privacy, I think his appropriate response should be, ‘of course’ or ‘why or can’t I record’ or ‘is there a place that I can record.”
Aside from being state law, the congressman says that the policy at his Salisbury office exists to protect people who would like to share personal information and says that he has nothing to hide.
“I don’t know why you have to have secret recordings done when we are out on the record clearly,” said Rep. Harris. “We’re out in the public. I’m not sure why you have to have secret recordings that violate Maryland law.”
Burdett says he wasn’t acting maliciously and while he has asked for his personal feelings to remain private until the case is closed, he did say that there is a lesson to be learned.
“I didn’t know the law going in to the protest and that was the problem in the first place,” said Burdett. “This is real life stuff. If you’re going to protest, that’s a serious thing and you should know the law so you don’t inadvertently land in big trouble like I have.”
Burdett will appear in court on Friday at 11 am in Wicomico County, MD. There is a rally of support planned for the moments after.