Stealth Videotape Violated Woman's Privacy, Court Says

, New York Law Journal

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 an eye looking through a keyhole

The woman said she kept the door to her bathroom open so she could hear her child if he woke up. She was alerted to the man's presence at her front door, which faced a set of stairs leading up to the bathroom door, when she noticed the red "record" light of a camera through the window, according to the ruling.

The door had a decorative, crescent-shaped window that was above the average eye height, but the 6-foot-2 defendant, holding the camera above his head, could get a clear shot up to the bathroom door, according the court ruling.

She immediately shut the bathroom door and called police. Authorities said they found footprints in the snow in front of her door which they tracked to Schreier's nearby townhouse.

After questioning, police said Schreier acknowledged videotaping the woman and turned over his camera and memory card.

He was convicted after a bench trial in Monroe County Court of second-degree unlawful surveillance and sentenced to five years probation.

Timothy Murphy of Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria in Buffalo represented Schreier.

Murphy said in an interview Thursday that he had hoped the Court of Appeals would have found the unlawful surveillance statute was aimed at preventing illegal videotaping that occurs in bedrooms, locker rooms, bathrooms and other places where activities are otherwise "hidden from all public view." That was the limited reading of "surreptitious" that Murphy said he tried to get the court to adopt.

It had not been clear until the court's ruling Thursday that the statute also covered the taping of anyone "standing in front of a window," such as the images Schreier captured as he stood outside of the woman's front door, Murphy said.

Murphy said Thursday he did not believe the Scheier case involved any interpretation of federal law that would allow an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Monroe County Assistant District Attorney Nicole Fantigrossi said the court applied the plain meaning of surreptitious, which was prosecutor's position all along.

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