Monday, November 29, 2021

Former professor and professor call police on each other over secret recordings

Prosecutors lost a key court battle last week in the prosecution of Doug Macay, a former physics professor who secretly recorded conversations with co-workers at the University of New Hampshire in 2012. A judge ruled that the secret surveillance images were not “protected by the constitutional right to privacy”.

The decision means that the attorneys can no longer redact certain parts of the tape-recording material so as to conceal potentially damaging evidence and may potentially be removed from the public record.

The original tapes were recorded in connection with a possible violation of academic code of conduct. The prosecutors thought they were using them to investigate the possible ethics violation. However, they also secretly videoed colleagues participating in non-standard meetings and gossiping. The district court had previously redacted the material, but the recordings were never made public, and the judge ruled last week that the information was no longer sufficiently redacted, as it previously was, under New Hampshire law.

Macay was charged with second-degree invasion of privacy and was declared a fugitive on March 2, 2013, after failing to report for a court-ordered court-ordered psychiatric exam. However, he was later arrested in a University of Texas parking lot and is now the only person currently facing charges related to these recordings. The man who filmed him, William Marks, broke down and cried when he first learned of the recording and its possible implications.

On top of the allegations of privacy invasion, the public had wondered why the tapes were kept from the public, however secret. The Washington Post previously reported:

A high-profile set of tapes began surfacing this year, throwing a spotlight on the ethics of faculty workplace behavior. New Hampshire, which adopted a campus code of conduct, prohibits eavesdropping or recording of individuals’ conversations without their consent. The investigation into Macay was also the first since former university president Steven C. Fuchs ordered a suspension of a University of New Hampshire law professor in 2011 over a secretly recorded office conversation. The professor’s conviction was later overturned.

Stephen C. Logan, who represented Macay in his court case, told E&E News that he felt vindicated by the ruling.

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