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Great Falls man cited after he allegedly illegally recorded a conversation

Crime Watch
Posted at 9:01 AM, Nov 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-03 20:41:27-04

GREAT FALLS — Joshua Burton Copeland, who was defeated in his bid to be elected to the Great Falls City Commission on Tuesday, was cited last month after allegedly illegally recording a phone conversation with Steve Yates, the vice-principal of East Middle School.

According to the Great Falls Police Department, Yates had called Copeland regarding a recent incident at the school.

Copeland then used what police say was his cell phone to begin making a video recording, where Copeland's face can be seen and his voice heard, and Yates' voice can also be heard.

When contacted by police, Yates said that he had not given Copeland permission to record the conversation.

Yates told police that he "felt Copeland was trying to bait him into making statements" that he would not make.

Copeland was contacted at his residence and issued a citation for violating what is known as "Privacy In Communications."

Montana Code provides the following explanation:
45-8-213. Privacy in communications.

  • (1) Except as provided in 69-6-104, a person commits the offense of violating privacy in communications if the person knowingly or purposely:
    • (a) with the purpose to terrify, intimidate, threaten, harass, or injure, communicates with a person by electronic communication and threatens to inflict injury or physical harm to the person or property of the person or makes repeated use of obscene, lewd, or profane language or repeated lewd or lascivious suggestions;
    • (b) uses an electronic communication to attempt to extort money or any other thing of value from a person or to disturb by repeated communications the peace, quiet, or right of privacy of a person at the place where the communications are received;
    • (c) records or causes to be recorded a conversation by use of a hidden electronic or mechanical device that reproduces a human conversation without the knowledge of all parties to the conversation; or
  • (4) (a) A person convicted of the offense of violating privacy in communications shall be fined an amount not to exceed $500 or be imprisoned in the county jail for a term not to exceed 6 months, or both.

The citation, which is dated Friday, October 8, 2021, does not provide details of the incident that resulted in Yates calling Copeland, but there was an incident at East Middle School just days before the phone call; it involved two students who reportedly threatened violence against each other. The GFPD has not confirmed whether the two incidents are related.