CHARLOTTE COUNTY, Fla. — In Charlotte County, over 200 phone conversations between inmates and their attorneys that were meant to be confidential were actually recorded, and in some cases even listened to by members of the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office.
Scott Weinberg is a criminal law attorney. He’s used to representing clients in lock up. What he is not used to is having his private phone conversations with his client recorded.
“U.S code 1983, which is basically saying that them recording your phone calls violates your civil rights,” says Weinberg.
We reached out for an interview with the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office but were denied. They did give us a copy of the Internal Affairs report which states 246 calls were recorded. The report says Global Tel Links, which is the company contracted to handle phone calls in and out of the jail, unintentionally recorded the calls after a software update failed to add the list of phone numbers of attorney’s offices that were on the Do Not Record list.
“What we have is the Sheriffs Department claiming it was negligence, why they recorded them. They’re blaming Global Tel Links for the recordings,” said Weinberg.
Weinberg says this issue would be in the realm of criminality if information was taken from those phone calls to help with Sheriff’s or State Attorney’s investigations into the accused.
“I think this is an issue for the public to be concerned about,” Weinberg says. “This is about Government transparency. The problem that I have is the investigation into why these phone calls were recorded was done by the Sheriffs Department.”
That got us wondering what the protocol is at other correctional institutions on the Suncoast.
At the Sarasota County jail, the Sheriff’s Office says attorneys provide phone numbers they use to speak to their clients, and that number is put on a list of Do Not Record numbers.
Up at the Manatee County jail, a spokesperson we spoke to said they dedicated a separate line only for attorney and inmate communication — and that line is never recorded.
As for Weinberg and his client, they are waiting to decide what their next course of action may be.
“We’re considering all options,” said Weinberg.
The Sheriff’s Office also tells us there is a supplemental report in the works, which they hope to have released in the next couple of days. They tell us that document should answer even more questions.