A Chesapeake Beach town council member pleaded guilty to illegal wiretapping Tuesday, receiving probation before judgment and a $2,500 fine.
According to the Office of the State Prosecutor, Councilmember Stewart Cumbo, a former Maryland State Police trooper who has served on the town council since 2000, made about 275 recordings without telling the people he was speaking to that they were being recorded.
Cumbo was charged with a felony under Maryland’s wiretapping laws. He entered an Alford plea to the charge. In an Alford plea, meaning he did not admit guilt to the crime but acknowledged that the state had enough evidence to secure a conviction.
Cumbo and the state reached a pre-indictment plea that would have led to the probation before judgment and 100 hours of community service.
Calvert County Circuit Court Judge Thomas R. Simpson Jr. sentenced Cumbo to probation before judgment, with a period of three years unsupervised probation and imposed a $2,500 fine, instead of the community service.
Under Maryland law, conversations cannot be recorded without the permission of all parties involved.
“We need to ensure people are respecting boundaries set by Maryland’s wiretapping laws; it is especially egregious that a former police officer would be unaware of the notice requirements under Maryland’s wiretapping laws,” State Prosecutor Emmet C. Davitt said in a news release.
Cumbo released a statement to the TheBayNet.com in March, saying that he hoped to remain in his role on the town council and to have his record expunged in the future. He also said the recordings were made through mobile phone apps and were not used to harm anyone.
“I did this because as I have gotten older, I have experienced some memory problems. Most of the calls involved family and friends. I did not share these recordings with anyone or use them to harm anyone,” Cumbo’s statement read. “Using this app was an honest mistake on my part, for which I apologize. I never intended to break the law or hurt anyone.”
The charge is the only blemish on his record, Cumbo said.
The case was referred to the state prosecutor’s office by the Calvert County State’s Attorney’s Office, and the Calvert County Sheriff’s Office assisted in the investigation.