Cell Phone Voyeur Sentenced

Matt O'Conner
COLUMBUS, Ohio — A man who used his cell phone to take “upskirt” photos of a 13-year-old girl was sentenced on March 8 to three years’ probation. The girl’s mother caught Daniel Reinker snapping the photos while bending down and pretending to talk on his phone at a grocery store. Witnesses say he tried deleting some of the pictures after an off-duty Franklin County sheriff’s deputy detained him. “[The mother] confronts him,” Franklin County Sheriff Chief Deputy Steve Martin told television reporters. “He tries to run away. That’s when an extra-duty officer stops him and arrested him.” The deputy took Reinker’s camera phone as evidence, but Reinker grabbed it back and tried to destroy the pictures. Sheriff’s deputies later found 20 upskirt photos of women and young girls. Reinker was originally indicted on 20 counts of voyeurism but pleaded guilty in January to one count of voyeurism and one count of tampering with evidence. As part of the plea agreement, he must be registered with the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office as a sexuallyoriented offender for the next 10 years. In a related story, John Addison Grant III of Lebanon, Ore., pleaded guilty on March 10 to attempted invasion of privacy, a misdemeanor that carries a maximum sentence of two years’ probation and a $600 fine. The charge stemmed from a 2003 incident in which Grant was caught taking pictures up another 13-year-old girl’s skirt during a cheerleading competition. “This is an example where the laws of the state have not kept up with advances in technology,” John Haroldson, the district attorney who prosecuted Grant, told reporters outside the courthouse. Voyeurs in the digital age are frustrating prosecutors across the U.S. because snapping pictures up skirts and down blouses is not against the law in most states. Although 38 states have privacy laws concerning the use of cameras, only 19 specifically punish video voyeurism, and half of those do so only for “private” areas where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy. Public areas, such as malls, usually do not fall into this category. When police in Memphis, Tenn., caught a man video taping college women as they slept, prosecutors had trouble defining the crime under the states existing laws. He was eventually charged with “observing without consent,” a misdemeanor that carries a maximum six-month sentence. Meanwhile, a Virginia man was slapped on the wrist with a 10-day sentence for disorderly conduct because prosecutors were stymied in their attempts to find an appropriate charge after he was arrested while videotaping up girls skirts at a local mall. Lawmakers in many states, including California, Hawaii and Nevada, are scrambling to rework privacy laws to account for digital technology. Robert Westcott was the first person to be convicted under New York’s new “Stephanie’s Law” when he pleaded guilty on March 7 to one felony count of unlawful surveillance. Because the New York law makes video voyeurism a felony, Westcott is expected to draw a stiffer sentence than Reinker or Grant. While prosecutors and victims have been frustrated by murky criminal statutes regarding video voyeurism, they have had more success seeking justice in civil courts. In February, two Florida women were awarded $1 million each in a lawsuit against their former employer, Ocwen Financial Corp., after a co-worker admitted to secretly videotaping them under their desks. The office voyeur, Ronald Minnis, Jr., told authorities that he had sold the videos to an adult website. Criminal charges against Minnis were dropped by the state attorney’s office after he agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in the civil case. But even as states move to raise penalties and victims seek financial damages against voyeurs, new technology is constantly emerging that makes it harder for law enforcement to catch offenders. In March, Sony Ericsson released its new CeBIT Rob-1, a camera that can be remotely controlled via a Bluetooth connection at a range of up to about 30 yards. Using a mobile phone, voyeurs can see exactly what the Rob-1 sees and use the handset’s joystick to tilt the camera down 20 degrees or up 70 degrees for the best angle, then snap away and store pictures to memory.