Three years ago, Laine Hardy tasted superstardom by winning American Idol. Last week, the 21-year-old landed in the headlines for a different reason.
A college student in Hardy’s home state, Louisiana, looked under her dormitory bed, found a hidden audio recording device and told police she feared the musician planted it there.
After police in Baton Rouge said they found evidence backing up the woman’s suspicion, Hardy was jailed Friday on one count of interception of oral communication. He has since posted a $5,000 bond for his release pending the outcome of the case.
In a statement, Hardy did not confirm or deny the allegation but said he was being “fully cooperative”.
“I have the utmost respect for the law and will assist in their investigation as needed moving forward,” the statement said.
Police did not name the woman.
Hardy, a guitar player and vocalist from Livingston Parish in south-east Louisiana, captured national attention when he won the 17th season of American Idol in May 2019.
Performances of Home, by fellow Louisianan Marc Broussard, Jambalaya (On the Bayou) by Hank Williams and Bring It On Home to Me by Sam Cooke catapulted him to victory when he was just 17.
In court documents filed last week, police said Hardy dated a student at Louisiana State University (LSU) in Baton Rouge for about four months beginning in November 2021.
The student began to suspect that Hardy – who does not attend LSU – was spying on her when she determined he knew what she had done during Christmas break though she had never told him, police said.
The student also purportedly found a fake Instagram account linked to Hardy she believed he was using to cover up his illegal surveillance.
She eventually confronted Hardy, who said he left a “bug” in her room that he had since thrown into a pond, police said. Allegedly, Hardy later put his confession in writing in a social media message the woman ultimately provided to confers.
Police said the woman decided to report Hardy after she and her roommate found what appeared to be a phone charger under her bunk on the night of 6 April.
The woman used Google to determine the device was actually a voice-activated recorder like the one Hardy is alleged to have claimed to have thrown in a pond.
The woman called police at the university the following day and turned the device over to officers who downloaded its contents, investigators said in court documents.
Police alleged that officers heard Hardy’s “very distinguishable voice” as well as repeated mentions of the name “Laine” on one file, as he apparently brought the device into the dormitory room.
Other recordings – which were made over a 10-day period beginning on 10 February – appear to capture Hardy leaving the room and the woman “having very candid conversations with her roommates”, police said in the court records.
The recordings suggest Hardy at one point picked up the device and took it to a place where he spoke with another man about feeding a dog, police said. He then allegedly returned the device to the room, where it allegedly captured the woman talking to her mother about breaking up with Hardy.
On one of the last recordings on the device, police said, the woman is overheard telling someone she doesn’t know if the “bug is still in her room”.
In Louisiana, at least one person participating in a conversation must provide consent for it to be legally recorded.
Anyone in the state convicted of illegally intercepting someone else’s communications with a third party can face between two and 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000.