Celebrity gossip website TMZ is being sued over hidden microphones in court.
According to the suit, TMZ has been placing hidden microphones in courtrooms and recording confidential conversations between court officers, reports The Hollywood Reporter.
A man named Alpha Walker brought the lawsuit, claiming TMZ had placed the microphones on the judge's bench and behind books on the counsel table during his criminal trial. These microphones allegedly transferred court communications directly to TMZ headquarters. At the time, Walker was in court to face charges of attempting to extort Stevie Wonder.
On the recordings, there are no discernible voices that can be heard in sidebar conversations or private discussions between counsel, writes the Reporter. However, Walker claims that these recordings may be digitally enhanced and the details of the conversation made known.
Furthermore, Walker claims that TMZ surreptitiously filmed him, including images of him in handcuffs and against a wall. As a result of these allegedly illicit recordings, Walker says that he has experienced a "tremendous fear and distrust of the judicial system." His lawsuit against TMZ alleges wiretapping, invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and eavesdropping on confidential communications, reports the Reporter.
Walker wants $100,000 in actual damages, and punitive damages as well.
If Walker's claims are true, it seems that he has a pretty convincing case against TMZ. After all, the company is alleged to have basically placed listening devices in a courtroom and listened in on privileged communications.
However, the wrench in the lawsuit may be that the hidden mics were not that hidden in the first place. The judge who heard the case, Ray Jurado, allegedly knew about and allowed the recordings; court staff even helped set up the microphones, according to the Reporter.
While Jurado denies this, Walker may also have a claim against the government, if he fails to get compensation from the deep pockets of TMZ.