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Posted at 12:57 p.m. EST Wednesday, February 28, 2001

Classroom taping charge against Panhandle student dropped

PENSACOLA, Fla. -- (AP) -- A felony wiretapping charge was dropped Wednesday against a Florida Panhandle high school student who tape-recorded a chemistry lecture without the teacher's knowledge.

Asher Zaslaw, 17, of nearby Navarre, could have faced a variety of penalties, including community service and probation, if convicted in juvenile court of violating a Florida wiretapping law that prohibits intercepting conversations without the knowledge of all participants.

Assistant State Attorney John Molchan dropped the charge Wednesday.

He said he dropped it because the law applies only if the parties to a conversation have an expectation of privacy, and society must view that expectation as reasonable.

``Under the circumstances of this case where the young lady was recording a lecture, trying to assist her in learning at that particular time, I'm not sure that's an appropriate forum for prosecution under this particular statute,'' Molchan said in a telephone interview.

The law allows taping at public meetings and other public gatherings.

Zaslaw's lawyer, Larry Keefe, had entered an innocent plea in juvenile court Tuesday in Milton. He said the teacher didn't have a reasonable expectation of privacy in a classroom with 30 students.

Zaslaw, a varsity weightlifter and Math Club member at Navarre High School in neighboring Santa Rosa County, said she decided to record the October lecture because she was having difficulty in the class and wanted to maintain her high grade-point average.

After telling some classmates about the recording, the teen-ager was called into an administrator's office several weeks later, asked about the tape and told the action was against school policy. Zaslaw, who said she was unaware of the rule, was never disciplined.

However, Shelaine Goss, the chemistry teacher, filed a complaint against Zaslaw several months after leaving Navarre High School for personal reasons, school principal Louise Driggers said.

The charges were filed against the teen Feb. 5.

Florida law prohibits recording a person without their consent when there is a reasonable expectation of privacy, except in public meetings or gatherings.

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