Recorded conversation with Northeastern school officials leads to charges

John Joyce
  • Police: An East Manchester Twp. man is charged with illegal wiretapping after secretly recording a meeting with school officials.
  • Court documents say the man played the recording on his way out of the meeting, giving himself away.
  • Roger Renoll, 42, is now charged with intercepting communication, a violation of the Wiretap Act.

Police say a conversation between Northeastern Middle School officials and a concerned parent crossed into criminal territory when the parent recorded the interaction without the permission of the others involved.

Roger Renoll, 42, of 25 Heather Way in East Manchester Township, is charged with felony interception of communications, according to charging documents. A uniformed officer present at the meeting between Renoll and school administrators became aware of the recording immediately after the meeting and obtained a search warrant for Renoll's phone, the documents said.

Disclosure: A prosecutor with the York County District Attorney's Office, David Maisch, said he could not speak to Renoll's case specifically, but in general when a person records another individual in a private setting without the other person's knowledge, that violates the Wiretap Act.

FILE - This Feb. 17, 2016, file photos shows an iPhone in Washington. Police say a parent recorded a conversation with Northeastern Middle School administrators on his iPhone. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

The same would not be true, say, in a public square, according to Maisch, because there is no expectation of privacy. Another means of protection is if the person doing the recording makes it known at the outset and the other party agrees to be recorded, he explained.

"If you tell someone you are going to do it, now you're not going to have a problem with the Wiretap Act," Maisch said.

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In a written statement, Renoll's attorney, David Mueller said his client was "unaware that Pennsylvania's complex wiretapping laws prohibit such a recording."

Mueller said the police and district attorney's office have "tremendous discretion" in deciding when to pursue criminal charges, and said he and his client will "respectfully and appropriately" address the charges in court.

Meeting: According to the charging documents, Renoll did not indicate to anyone present at the meeting — middle school Principal Mike Alessandroni, Assistant Principal Christine Rine and Officer Andrew Frey of the Northeastern Regional Police Department — that he intended to record the meeting.

Frey, who filed the charges against Renoll, said in the documents the meeting was called to discuss Renoll's concern that his child, a student at the school, was being harassed by another student.

The administrators asked for a uniformed officer to be present at the meeting because, "Renoll and his wife had been combative and verbally abusive at a past meeting," the charging documents said.

Bugged:  According to the documents, the parties met in a conference room at the school with the door closed. At the beginning of the meeting, Renoll took out an Apple iPhone in a black case and placed it face down on the desk, the documents said.

The documents state that during the meeting Renoll got loud with Allesandroni, and the two engaged in a verbal argument. Renoll left the room when the meeting was over, but a secretary in the office outside the meeting room heard Renoll say something to the effect of "Got it" as he left. Renoll was looking at his phone when he said it, the documents said.

Another secretary told Frey she heard a portion of the recording being played back on Renoll's phone as he left and distinctly heard Rine's voice, the documents said,

Warrant: Frey checked with a detective who suggested he speak to the District Attorney's Office before trying to obtain a warrant for Renoll's phone. After explaining the situation to a district attorney, Frey was told a wiretap violation had been committed and to secure a warrant, the documents said.

Frey and another officer, warrant in hand, went to Renoll's home, and when he answered the door they explained why they were there. Renoll asked, "Is this about me recording the meeting," the documents said.

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Renoll was advised it was and was forced to surrender his phone and password to unlock it for a forensic analyst who, going forward, will be the only person permitted to open the phone and go through it, the documents said. Renoll was not permitted to show the officers the recording or to retrieve phone numbers before surrendering the phone, according to the documents.

He did, however, ask the officers to pass along a message to Allesandroni, according to the documents, and then he screamed "F— you."

Renoll was released on a $5,000 unsecured bond and is scheduled for a preliminary hearing at 9:30 a.m. Sept. 1.

— Reach John Joyce at jjoyce2@yorkdispatch.comor on Twitter @JohnJoyceYD.