Facebook Live post sparks controversy, results in student’s wiretapping guilty plea

A student and political activist in Maryland has pleaded guilty to illegally wiretapping a congressional staffer and putting the conversation on Facebook Live without consent.

The state prosecutor's office said Monday a plea agreement was reached with Jake Burdett, a 21-year-old Salisbury University student. Under the agreement, Burdett will receive probation before judgment and 100 hours of community service.

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In a statement, prosecutors said that Burdett, an advocate for the group Maryland Marijuana Justice, had participated in a rally in front of the Salisbury Office for Congressman Andy Harris in October of 2018. “When a Congressional Staffer of Congressman Harris offered to meet with the group, Burdett and a few others agreed to meet with the Staffer in his office, which could only seat a few people,” prosecutors explained. “Noticing people from this small group on their phones, different members of Congressman Harris’s staff notified the group that they were not allowed to record in the office because of the long-standing office policy.”

Burdett, however, recorded the entire meeting and streamed it on Facebook Live, without the Congressional staffer’s consent.  He was charged with the illegal recording of the Congressional staffer and the illegal distribution of that recording.

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“We need to ensure people are respecting boundaries set by Maryland’s wiretapping laws,” said Emmet Davitt, Maryland state prosecutor, in the statement. “Mr. Burdett apologized to the Congressional staffer and the State felt a Probation Before Judgment along with community service was the appropriate sentence.”

The Associated Press contributed to this article. Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers