Secret Recording by Rita LeBlanc of her Grandfather Tom Benson - Illegal or No?
As you may know by now, Rita Leblanc, granddaughter of Tom Benson, the owner of the New Orleans Saints and the New Orleans Pelicans before he died on March 18, 2018, secretly recorded a conversation she had with Benson about why her mother, Renee Leblanc, had contacted Tom Benson’s bookkeeper directly, instead of going through him. The recording was a critical piece of evidence in the family feud between Tom Benson and Renee LeBlanc and Rita LeBlanc, the daughter and granddaughter of Tom Benson respectively. The feud began after Tom Benson made his wife, Gayle Benson, the heir to his multi-billion-dollar business fortune. The feud played out in court in New Orleans in June 2015 where Judge Kern Reese, after an eight day trial, ruled in Tom Benson’s favor by holding that Benson should not be interdicted. An interdiction is a process in court where a Judge is asked to determine whether a person is unable, because of an ailment such as a mental illness, to make decisions regarding his person and/or his property. In this case, Rita and Renee LeBlanc unsuccessfully attempted to convince Judge Kern Reese of the New Orleans Civil District Court that Benson should be interdicted on the grounds that he was too mentally debilitated to alter his will. For more details of the court proceedings, see the New Orleans Advocate article written by Ramon Antonio Vargas at https://bit.ly/2Af3uu4.
The Trial Court Proceeding
During an eight day trial in a closed court, Judge Reese was presented with voluminous amounts of conflicting lay and medical witness testimony. Judge Reese found that Mr. Benson should not be interdicted and that Mr. Benson had a right not to testify at the trial. The Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal agreed with Judge Reese. In Re Benson 216 So.3d 950 (La. App. 4 Cir. 2/24/16).
The Secret Recording of Tom Benson by Rita Leblanc
On December 19, 2014, Rita Leblanc secretly recorded a conversation that she had with Benson. That recording was introduced into evidence at the trial by LeBlanc’s attorney to show that Benson, who was immobile, after being relegated to a wheelchair, and required twenty-four hour nursing assistance for his care, and who had been prescribed a number of medications for his various maladies, including alleged mental illnesses.
Why the Secret Recording by Rita LeBlanc is not illegal?
In Louisiana, under La. R.S. 15:1303(C)(4, 5), Louisiana’s Electronic Surveillance Act, the recording, interception, use or disclosure of any oral or telephonic communication by means of any mechanical or electronic device is legal as long as one party to the conversation consents. In the case of Rita Leblanc’s because she consented to the secret recording of the conversation that she had with her grandfather Tom Benson, the recording is legal.
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