Is every private conversation going to become fodder for public scrutiny?
Two news stories currently in rotation are those of LA Clippers owner, Donald Sterling’s public airing of what appear to be racist comments and, separately, actor George Clooney’s spat with Vegas casino king, Steve Wynn, wherein the latter is alleged to have used a descriptive expletive in reference to President Obama.
Seemingly unrelated yet, they are — both conversations involved were conducted in private.
1. Donald Sterling and V. Stiviano.
As we are all too well aware, in the first matter, V. Stiviano (aka Maria Perez, aka Maria Vanessa Perez, aka Vanessa Stiviano, aka Victim S.) recorded a private conversation between herself and her half-century older boyfriend/”host” , Donald Sterling (without his knowledge or consent) in which she relentlessly pursued an apparent interest in his profound thoughts on “the Instagram” (was he thinking” telegraph”??) and her posing with Magic Johnson. Granted, Sterling’s racially biased responses during the interrogation are horribly offensive comments but at which point did his 1st Amendment freedom of speech during that private exchange end? And, when did secret recordings become legal again in California?
The law is quite clear on audio recordings in California: (Source: Reporter’s Recording Guide)
Summary of statute(s): In California, all parties to any confidential conversation must give their consent to be recorded. This applies whether the recording is done face-to-face or intercepted through some electronic communication such as a cell phone call or series of e-mail or text messages. Both civil and criminal penalties are available to victims of illegal recordings.
Criminal penalties: A first offense of eavesdropping or wiretapping is punishable by a fine of up to $2,500 or imprisonment for no more than one year. Cal. Penal Code §§ 631, 632. Subsequent offenses carry a maximum fine of $10,000 and jail sentence of up to one year. Disclosing the contents of intercepted telephone conversations could lead to fines of up to $5,000 and one year in jail. Cal. Penal Code § 637. Violation of the state’s hidden camera statute is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and fines of up to $1,000.
The state’s civil code provides for fines of up to $50,000, three times the amount of actual or special damages, and punitive damages for committing an assault or trespassing to capture a visual image or sound recording. Cal. Civil Code § 1708.8(d).
As no official charges of unauthorized audio recordings have been filed, is V. receiving special treatment from Cali prosecutors?
The next real legal issue with this situation concerns NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s demand that Sterling relinquish his ownership of the basketball team. Leaving all else aside (the NAACP’s second lifetime award to alleged racist Sterling, wife Rochelle Sterling’s lawsuit v. V. [!], etc.), it appears a crime may been committed in this matter, the right of freedom of speech suspended and the forfeiture of property (the franchise, not the players – no need for get huffiness, please) is being forced. How are these actions not unconstitutional and illegal?
I’m not justifying the man’s outrageously abhorrent comments but neither do I endorse the trashing of basic rights and breaking the law.
The Sterling/Stiviano matter requires an authoritative, objective review.
2. George Clooney and Steve Wynn.
According to George Clooney, he voluntarily attended a private dinner at which Steve Wynn was also a guest. Clooney alleges that at some point during said dinner, Wynn offered up a statement, to the effect, “I voted for him and he’s an a-hole!”. It appears that the two were engaged in a heated conversation regarding healthcare.
George is a 52 y.o. man with a career in perhaps one of the most contentious working environments in creation – Hollywood. I’m relatively certain he has heard much worse than the expletive alleged voiced by Wynn. How the dinner dishing debacle become public:
According the The Hollywood Reporter:
The incident was first reported by Las Vegas gossip writer Norm Clarke in his Las Vegas Review-Journal column. The argument occurred at the luxurious Botero restaurant at the mogul’s Wynn Hotel two weeks ago, according to Clarke. (A publicist for Clooney confirmed the details of the column to THR.)
Wait. Wynn allegedly made these statement at a dinner in his own hotel? So, private dinner, personal conversation and in the restaurant owner’s own venue and he was till “outed” for voicing his opinions? And the media and the public believe they have the moral authority to judge Wynn? Next.
The Sterling/Stiviano and Clooney/Wynn matters clearly make the point that grown-ups need to return to adulthood.
BNI Operatives: Street smart; info savvy, (highly opinionated this week).
As always, stay safe.