Cell Phone Upskirt Shots Land Man In Jail

AUSTIN, TX – In the crowded bar, police say, Brent Allen slipped his Sanyo cellular phone with built-in camera under several patrons’ skirts, snapping photographs as the women moved about unaware. The photos could have been e-mailed to a home computer and easily posted on the Internet by pressing a single button. Instead, investigators said, a bar employee who said Allen bragged to her about the images grabbed his camera cell phone and called police.
The employee, Christa Reynolds, told officers that Allen showed her one of the pictures and said: “This one is my favorite. She isn’t wearing panties,” according to an arrest affidavit filed Tuesday in Williamson County.

“The girls were wearing skirts; they were in a busy location; so all he would do is reach underneath the skirt and take the photographs,” said Robert Hightower, a detective in the Austin Police Department’s sex crimes unit, which investigated the July 26 incident at the Rhinos N Jocks sports bar on U.S. 183 in far Northwest Austin.

Allen, 42, of Cedar Park was released from the Williamson County Jail on Monday on a $1,000 bond. He is charged with improper photography, a felony punishable by two years in state jail and a $10,000 fine. Neither he nor his Round Rock lawyer could be reached Tuesday.

Officials said the case illustrates the growing problem of privacy violations by camera cell phone users. Gyms, concert halls and other places of mass gathering in Europe and Asia have banned the devices, fearing that high-tech peeping toms would take and distribute graphic photos of unsuspecting women.

In Texas, a state law that took effect in September 2001 prohibits such photography and videotaping for sexual arousal.

Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley said Allen’s case will be the first his office has prosecuted under the law. Before, the only similar laws governed child pornography, but no laws existed applying to adults who were secretly taped.

Bradley said people who videotaped lewd images in the past were sometimes prosecuted under obscenity laws, but obscenity is often more difficult to prove and carries a lighter sentence.

The Travis County district attorney’s office has handled four cases in which people were charged with improper photography and videotaping.

The affidavit said Allen was using a Sanyo SCP-5300 phone, valued at $300. The phones, which have been on the market in the United States for several months, allow users to store about 16 images, according to a Web site advertising them.

Reynolds, who could not be reached Tuesday, gave the phone to officers, who obtained a search warrant to retrieve the photos, Hightower said. He said investigators recovered at least four shots taken under women’s skirts, including the one Reynolds had seen.

Six other photos that were considered legal contained images of women’s legs and feet, Hightower said.

Investigators checked Allen’s call log and do not think the images were loaded onto the Internet before the phone was confiscated. Hightower said that during an interview with detectives, Allen acknowledged taking the photographs and said he was “just messing around.”

Hightower said such invasions of privacy aren’t a joke.

“That’s the scary part about this type of technology,” he said. “These type of photographs can be sent to an e-mail with the touch of a button and posted on a site within seconds of being taken.

“The public needs to be aware and cautious, and the users of the phones need to be responsible with their actions.”

 

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