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Man behind secret recording of McConnell appears to avoid charges

Man behind secret recording of McConnell appears to avoid charges

by Joe Arnold


Posted on August 27, 2014 at 7:27 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- The Democratic operative and activist who admitted to clandestinely recording a private meeting of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's campaign team appears to have avoided criminal charges in the incident.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has returned the "flip cam" used by Curtis Morrison in February, 2013 to record the meeting, his attorney disclosed to WHAS11.

"I took it as a very good sign that while we didn't get an apology letter from the government or confirmation that the case was closed, that it is not an active case as far as the U.S. government sees it," said Bart McMohan. 

The U.S. Attorney’s office does not typically comment if a case has been closed, unless it has been prosecuted. 


At the time of the recording, Morrison was a volunteer for Progress Kentucky, a fledgling Super PAC that also sparked controversy over a series of messages on social media regarding the ethnicity of McConnell's wife, former U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine Chao.

Because Morrison admitted to recording the meeting, the legal question was not whether he did it but whether recording a meeting from a hallway accessible to the public in an office building is a violation of wiretapping laws.

Morrison said he could hear the voices from inside the room through a vent in a hallway door and held the flip cam microphone up to the vent to record the meeting.

McConnell had urged the FBI and U.S. Attorney's office to investigate the unauthorized recording of the meeting, which included opposition research on then potential candidate Ashley Judd.

"I assume most of you are familiar with the game Whac-a-mole?" McConnell is heard on the recording.  "This is the Whac-a-mole period of the campaign... when anybody sticks their heads up, do them out."

Told that federal authorities had returned the evidence in the case to Morrison, Josh Holmes, a senior adviser to the McConnell campaign, said federal authorities had not informed them the case was closed.

"We're comfortable with law enforcement and what they have done to investigate this," Holmes said.  "And, ultimately, the Department of Justice needs to come up with a decision one way or another and I think we'll be comfortable with that."

McMahon said last year, Morrison cooperated fully with the FBI and U.S. Attorney, gave a full statement and surrendered his cell phone, laptop computer and the flip cam used to record McConnell.

Those three items have now been returned to Morrison.

"I thought that that was very good news for Curtis," McMahon said, "because typically if a crime has occurred and the government believes that a crime has occured, they hold on to the device or the evidence so that they can preserve it, hold it, keep a good chain of custody."

McMahon said electronic copies were probably made of the recording, but a prosecution of the case after returning evidence to the person who was under investigation would be surprising.

"I've been a lawyer for 19 years and I've never seen it occur," McCMahon said, "So, it would be very unusual."