Two Bonner County couples who say a sheriff’s deputy tape-recorded their phone calls are suing the county for more than $10 million.
Bob and Sandy Hoskins, Clark Fork, and Tony and Cathy Lamanna, Priest River, recently filed the complaint in federal court.
“Essentially we are talking about an invasion of privacy,” said the couples’ attorney Scott Reed. “A state investigation even confirmed that fact that a deputy had indeed monitored the telephone conversations of these people.”
County officials declined to comment on the complaint, saying it had been referred to their insurance company.
Between May 1993 and February 1994, the complaint said deputy Bob Howard used his police scanner to pick up calls made by the Hoskinses on their portable telephone. Deputy Howard lives near the Hoskins in Clark Fork.
“Howard used a pocket tape recorder to record the private conversations which he illegally intercepted,” the complaint said, adding that it happened several times.
Reed said the families learned of the eavesdropping after it was discussed at the sheriff’s department. A report from state investigators later confirmed the deputy taped one of the Hoskinses’ telephone conversations.
The deputy had said he was programming his scanner at home while off duty and heard an odd conversation he thought he should report.
Reed said he does not know what was said in the taped conversation and believes the tape has been destroyed.
A local radio station, KSPT, reported the conversation included a plot to murder the deputy’s wife.
The Hoskinses and Lamannas have filed suit against the radio station for more than $40,000 for defamation of character. They said that news report was false.
“The allegations set forth in this (radio) `news story’ were absolutely false,” Reed wrote in the libel suit.
The two families claim their civil rights have been violated and that Sheriff Chip Roos had full knowledge of the deputy’s eavesdropping.
Roos is being sued for $1 million.
Bonner County prosecutors dealt with a similar eavesdropping case last year.
A deputy who has since been fired was accused of using his scanner to listen in on calls the undersheriff made from home on a portable phone.
No charges were ever filed. Prosecutors said it is not illegal in Idaho to listen to calls made from portable phones.
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