Man speaks out about deputy eavesdropping on private phone call

MOXEE, Wash. -- For the first time, KIMA is hearing from a former inmate who had his jailhouse phone calls listened to improperly by law enforcement. Daniel Woolem's drug charges were dropped because of it.

It was the second time this happened recently in the Yakima County Jail. Daniel Woolem said he assumed the rules would be followed when he was booked into the Yakima County Jail.

"I was informed that when I was booked into jail that all calls were being recorded except those to my attorney," said Woolem.

His expectation of privacy didn't extend beyond that. So, he was surprised to hear his rights were violated. Someone from the Yakima County Sheriff's Office eavesdropped on calls Woolem made to his attorney.

"I didn't know exactly what they had listened to and how much they listened to and if it had been used against me or not," said Woolem.

Because of that mistake, Woolem's drug charges were thrown out. A judge even upheld the decision on appeal. Although his charges were dropped, Woolem wishes none of this would've happened.

"I would have liked to have been exonerated in court," said Woolem. The way it went this way is I'm still going to be guilty in their eyes. It's just a technicality."

Eavesdropping also jeopardized the case against a murder suspect. Kevin Harper was once charged in the West Valley triple murder. He made a plea deal on lesser charges. Knowing this has happened twice in recent years, Woolem said he hopes his case will set a new precedent.

"Even though this happened to you, do you think it's a blessing in disguise to help cases in the future for other people?" KIMA asked.
"Absolutely. That's the only reason why I pushed for it to go on through," said Woolem.

Woolem said he plans to file a civil case against the Yakima County Sheriff's Office.

Last month, Sheriff Ken Irwin spoke openly about plans to make sure the eavesdropping doesn't happen again. An internal investigation is underway in Woolem's case. Irwin said the plans include getting prosecutors involved earlier to decide whether a jailhouse conversation is privileged.