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Student receives probation for unlawful recording of Harris staffer

A Salisbury University student and political activist pleaded guilty Friday to illegal wiretapping of a congressional staffer and received probation before judgment as part of a pre-indictment agreement.

Jake Burdett, 21, was ordered to complete 100 hours of community service by Wicomico County Circuit Judge S. James Sarbanes, according to a news release from the Office of the State Prosecutor.

Burdett participated in a rally at Rep. Andy Harris’ Salisbury office in October with Maryland Marijuana Justice, a group that lobbies for the full legalization of marijuana. Harris, a Republican, represents Maryland’s 1st District.

A Harris staffer, who is not named in the news release, offered to meet in his office with the group, which included Burdett. Several staffers informed the group members that office policy forbid recording the meeting, but Burdett livestreamed the gathering on Facebook Live.

Maryland requires all parties to consent to being recorded. A violation of the wiretap law is a felony subject to up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

In an emailed statement after the charges were announced, Burdett said that he was unaware of the wiretap law requiring all-party consent and that, though he was aware the staff said recording was against office policy, he did not know the recording was illegal. He said he deleted the video the day after he recorded it.

State Prosecutor Emmet Davitt said his office must ensure that people respect the wiretapping law.

“Mr. Burdett apologized to the congressional staffer and the State felt a probation before judgment along with community service was the appropriate sentence,” Davitt said in a statement.

The case is State v. Jake Burdett, C-22-CR-19-000093.

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