Former Tehachapi City Council candidate James Clinton Davies was found guilty of one felony count of eavesdropping by a Kern County jury on Friday.
Davies' sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 19, when he could face up to three years in jail.
The incident stems from illegally recording a private conversation he had with Tehachapi Police Chief Kent Kroeger in the chief's office.
On May 7, 2019, Davies went to the Tehachapi Police Department and asked to speak with the chief regarding a complaint Davies had made against his roommate.
According to the video of the conversation, which was played during his trial, Davies briefly waited in the front lobby of the police department before he was invited in and escorted to a restricted, authorized personnel area by Lt. Tim Lizka.
Davies briefly said he was frustrated with the situation and how the department was handling his case.
"Why is he not in custody?" Davies asked, referring to his roommate.
Kroeger asked Davies to stay and further discuss the case and said, "We have what is considered a misdemeanor assault if committed not in our presence."
Davies neither announced he was recording the conversation with his cell phone nor sought consent to record. After a brief conversation, Davies left Kroeger's office and posted the video to a Tehachapi-based Facebook page.
Davies, in an email to Tehachapi News on June 17, 2019, wrote: "I had a right to be in Mr. Kroeger(')s office because I was invited and I was reporting a crime." He added, "The office door was open."
After the video was discovered by the police department, Tehachapi Police Detective Michael Adams and Lt. Lizka visited Davies at his residence.
The police recorded the conversation with Davies.
According to a written police report, Adams asked, "When you came into the station, did you tell chief that you were going to record him?"
Davies responded, "No."
Davies also admitted to also posting the video he made online, according to a written police report on the case.
California law regarding eavesdropping is different from some other states.
In California, a person must declare they are recording by means of an electronic device and receive consent to record by all parties in a confidential conversation, unless the conversation is made "in a public gathering or in any legislative, judicial, executive, or administrative proceeding open to the public, or in any other circumstance in which the parties to the communication may reasonably expect that the communication may be overheard or recorded," according to Penal Code 632a at leginfo.legislature.ca.gov.
California police officers who are actively investigating a case may document anything said and not declare they are recording, Adams said in his Jan. 8 testimony at Davies' trial in Kern County Superior Court.
District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer said in a press release Friday after the verdict, "The unlawful recording of confidential communications is illegal and will be prosecuted when detected. Our public officials are subject to public scrutiny, but not to invasion of privacy."