A Kern County judge sentenced former Tehachapi City Council candidate James Clinton Davies to three years probation, 76 days in jail, ordered Davies to pay a fee of $370 and voluntarily turn over all recording or data storage devices on Wednesday.
“I will appeal it and file it in the next couple days,” Davies said outside the courtroom. He added, "If I would have known everything I know now, I wouldn’t have gone into the chief’s’ office.”
He added that public officials in Tehachapi are using his case as an example and have filed charges of eavesdropping against other residents who speak out at City Council meetings.
Davies was found guilty of one felony count of eavesdropping by a Kern County jury on Jan. 10 and faced up to three years in prison.
The charge stemmed from illegally recording a private conversation he had with Tehachapi Police Chief Kent Kroeger after being invited into the chief's office, and not announcing he was recording or requesting permission to record.
This incident occurred May 7, 2019, when Davies went to the Tehachapi Police Department and asked to speak with the chief regarding a complaint Davies had made against his roommate.
In the courtroom Wednesday, defense attorney Arturo Revelo said Davies "endangered no one and the only victim was himself ... he thought what he did was protected by the Constitution."
Revelo requested that the case be reduced to a misdemeanor, but the felony count was upheld by Judge John R. Brownlee.
Davies already served 38 days in custody and was credited another 38 days for good behavior and work time.
Deputy District Attorney Bryant W. Estep said in court Wednesday that if Davies wanted to record Kroeger, he could have said he wanted to talk to the chief in a public area of the police station.
Davies was also ordered to abstain from intoxicating beverages, and complete out-patient substance abuse counseling. This is in regard to other pending cases in which Davies is charged with public intoxication and driving under the influence of alcohol and marijuana, according to documents in the case.
Both attorneys submitted to the court a memorandum and statement before sentencing.
Revelo rebutted that the intent to record a peace officer in the line of duty is a matter of public interest and cited SB411, which says, "The fact that a person takes a photograph or makes an audio or video recording of a public officer or peace officer, while the officer is in a public place or the person taking the photograph or making the recording is in a place he or she has a right to be does not constitute, in and of itself, a violation of subdivision(a) nor does it constitute reasonable suspicion to detain the person or probable cause to arrest the person."
In Estep's rebuttal, he said Davies "has been convicted by a jury of his peers for a felony violation of Penal Code 632a intentionally recording a confidential communication without consent of all parties."
He referenced five pending cases in California that put the public at risk and recommended that the felony charge be upheld due to protecting society, deterring others from criminal activities, increasing public safety and securing restitution for the victims of crime.
"Mr. Davies continues to be indignant and defiant. He does not present to the court to be as a humble, remorseful, convicted offender. He feels he did nothing wrong and maintains that he will continue to do this over and over again," Estep said in the sentencing memorandum.