DA Phil Berger, Jr. Says He Did Not Listen to Private Courtroom Conversations

12:42 AM, Dec 14, 2013   |    comments
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File photo. Via WRAL.
 PDF Document: AdministrativeOrderRockinghamCo

REIDSVILLE, N.C. -- It only lasted for two weeks but for some -- two weeks was too long.

WFMY News 2 is just learning that in 2011, Rockingham County District Attorney Phil Berger, Jr. had audio from court proceedings broadcast into his office for two weeks.

Court proceedings were aired in multiple locations at the old Rockingham County Courthouse but the system was not brought to the new courthouse.

Most court employees, even those that oversaw construction plans, did not know Berger had an audio system in his office.

After it was discovered, Resident Superior Court Judge Richard Stone and Chief District Court Judge Frederick Wilkins, Jr. signed an administrative order disabling Berger's audio system.

The order was filed on May 18, 2011 - about two weeks after the courthouse opened.

"In the old courthouse, we could utilize a lot of technology. That was 20 year old technology that we were using here in the new courthouse and after some of the individuals discovered that system, they weren't very happy about it and what they were able to do is ask us through a court order not to use it. And since that court order was entered we have not used it at all," explained Rockingham County District Attorney Phil Berger, Jr.

Berger added, "With the audio recording system, just like any other technology, it allows us to be more efficient in moving cases through our court system and we are able to do that by working with law enforcement, working with victims, and prosecuting criminals to the fullest extent of the law."

Berger did not directly answer the question of how the audio system made his office more efficient.

Judge Richard Stone told WFMY News 2's Morgan Hightower he was not aware Berger had the system.

He said in general, everyone knew about the broadcast system in the old courthouse whereas "judges were not made aware" of Berger's audio system. 

Stone said, "It's not normally acceptable that private conversations get listened to."

Morgan asked Berger, "Why was the audio only played into your office? Can you answer that?"

He answered, "Look, all I can tell you is I am running for Congress. This is an issue that is over 2 years old. We've got a message that resonates with the voters of the 6th District. It has to do with creating jobs, repealing Obamacare, getting rid of the harmful regulation that just stifles business and it's not surprising that some democrats and a few political operatives would take some shots at us."

Berger said he did not listen to private courtroom conversations.

Rockingham County Sheriff Sam Page says once he learned about the audio system, he told the two judges they should tell the Attorney General and he says they did.

Page says there was never an investigation.

WFMY News 2

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