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March 25, 2019: Political Activist Pleads Guilty to Illegal Wiretap of Congressional Staffer

Political Activist Pleads Guilty to Illegal Wiretap of Congressional Staffer

State Prosecutor Emmet C. Davitt announced today that Jake Burdett, a college student at Salisbury University, plead guilty to illegally wiretapping a Congressional Staffer for Congressman Andy Harris in a meeting.

Burdett, 21 years old, an advocate for the group Maryland Marijuana Justice, 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. 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 recorded the entire meeting, streaming it on Facebook Live, without the consent of the Congressional Staffer who was conducting the meeting. Burdett was charged with the illegal recording of the Congressional Staffer and the illegal distribution of that recording.

Burdett plead guilty on Friday to one count of illegally recording Harris’s staffer in a meeting. The State and Burdett reached a pre-indictment plea agreement in which Burdett would receive a Probation Before Judgment (PBJ) and one hundred (100) hours of community service. The Honorable S. James Sarbanes consented to the agreement and sentenced Burdett to a PBJ with 100 hours of community service.

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

This matter was referred to the Office of the State Prosecutor by the Wicomico County State’s Attorney’s Office.