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posted: 3/25/2012 6:47 PM

Bonfire, cellphone photo lands Elgin-area woman in hot water

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A bonfire and cellphone have combined to be big trouble for a woman from unincorporated Elgin.

Nora S. Napier, 61, faces felony charges after authorities say she photographed a Kane County sheriff's deputy who told her to extinguish a bonfire outside her home.

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Napier is charged with violation of the state's eavesdropping statute, along with aggravated resisting arrest for kicking a sheriff's deputy in the legs, according to a police report.

Both are felonies that carry a prison term of one to three years, but probation also is an option.

Perhaps Napier wouldn't be in hot water if the state's eavesdropping law -- which was declared unconstitutional by a Cook County judge this month -- was different.

Illinois has one of the strictest eavesdropping laws in the nation. Here, it is illegal to record someone without his or her permission. It's even a crime to make an audio or video recording of a law enforcement officer executing an official duty on public property without the officer's consent.

The Cook County ruling has no bearing on what happens here, said Kane County Sheriff's Department Lt. Patrick Gengler.

"In Kane County, the eavesdropping statute is still considered constitutional," he said.

According to sheriff reports, deputies were called to Napier's home on the 40W900 block of Woodrow Lane at about 7:50 p.m. Tuesday for a report of an illegal burn.

A deputy could smell burning plastic, and told Napier the Pingree Grove Fire Department would come to extinguish the fire.

The report said Napier later told firefighters and deputies to get off her property and accused them of trespassing.

The deputy saw Napier walking toward them with her cellphone that had a blinking red light on it -- indicating she could be making a recording.

"I informed Ms. Napier that she would not record nor photograph me in which she related that she could do what she wanted since this was her property. Ms. Napier yelled at me to move my vehicle since I was parked on her lawn, and immediately photographed myself and my squad car," read part of the report.

The deputy tried to grab Napier's phone, and Napier is accused of kicking the deputy after she fell down.

Efforts to reach Napier by phone were not successful, and it was unknown whether she had hired an attorney. She is free on her own recognizance pending trial, and she is due in court Friday.

A downstate judge has also ruled the law to be unconstitutional, but there are only two ways to change it here.

"It would have to be a decision coming from the state's Supreme Court or the General Assembly changing the law," Gengler said.

hhitzeman@dailyherald.com

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