Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office sued for not complying with FOIA request

Tori Latham, City Editor

The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office is being sued by a Chicago activist who claims it refused to comply with his request for documents under the Freedom of Information Act.  

The lawsuit was filed Thursday against the state’s attorney’s office on behalf of Freddy Martinez, an activist concerned with privacy and First Amendment issues who has previously sued the Chicago Police Department for similar reasons, according to a news release from Loevy & Loevy, a civil rights law firm, the firm representing Martinez.

“A culture of secrecy leads to abuse,” Martinez said in the news release. “This lawsuit is a step toward understanding how evidence is gathered and whether the means by which it was obtained is being kept from the accused and the public.”

Martinez filed a FOIA request with the state’s attorney’s office Dec. 31 for documents pertaining to the use of “stingray” spying equipment, according to the news release. Stingray technology allows local police to obtain information from the public through the use of fake cell phone towers, Martinez’s attorney, Matthew Topic, told The Daily.

“I hadn’t heard about this type of technology up until about a year ago,” Topic said. “It’s become a lot more prominent as people learn that law enforcement can use it to listen to the content of phone conversations, look at call logs, force software onto the device and get identification on the user.”

In response to Martinez’s FOIA request, which asked for records related to the presentation of evidence attained by stingray technology, the state’s attorney’s office said they did not have to look for the records because it would have been “unduly burdensome,” Topic said.

“There is no way this outweighs public interest,” Topic said. “There has been huge interest in disclosure of these types of documents, especially with the history of illegal surveillance by the Chicago Police Department.”

The state’s attorney’s office had not responded to requests for comment as of Thursday night.

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