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Federal judge rules Mass. law prohibiting secret audio recording of police, government officials is unconstitutional

A federal court judge Monday ruled a Massachusetts General Law prohibiting the secret audio recording of police or government officials is unconstitutional.

Chief United States District Judge Patti B. Saris made the ruling on two similar cases — one involving two Jamaica Plain residents who frequently record police officers and a second case involving Project Veritas, the undercover organization founded by conservative political activist James O’Keefe.

Both cases involved defendants who had not secretly recorded police but claimed that the Suffolk District Attorney’s office and the Boston Police Department were interpreting state law in such a way that was preventing them from doing so without the risk of legal repercussions.

Project Veritas argued it was being prevented from conducting the secret video recordings that are the bread and butter of its video reports here in Massachusetts due to the state’s interpretation of the law, which would make such recordings illegal.

The defendants in the cases are Suffolk District Attorney Daniel Conley and Boston Police Commissioner William Gross.

In the 44-page decision Saris declared that “secret audio recording of government officials, including law enforcement officials, performing their duties in public is protected by the First Amendment, subject only to reasonable time, place and manner restrictions.”

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