The world has all types of criminals, the majority of whom are guilty of serious transgressions that warrant severe punishment. But some crimes don't necessarily put fear in the hearts of the American public. Take the Peeping Tom, for example. Hollywood films such as 1985's Back to the Future have even used the Peeping Tom as a comedy device. That particular scene gets a big laugh, but lately Peeping Toms are no laughing matter.
The most high-profile example came a few years ago when nude video of ESPN sideline reporter Erin Andrews in her hotel room surfaced online. It was the work of stalker Michael Barrett, 49, who installed a camera in the peephole in Andrews' hotel room door. Barrett ended up getting 30 months in prison and was sentenced to pay Andrews more than $7,000 in restitution. After the sentencing, Andrews said she felt the punishment was not nearly harsh enough.
"Peeping Toms might be a bit of a punch line to some people, but don't tell that to celebrities like Erin Andrews," suggests attorney Martin Sweet of legal information website THELAW.TV . "She had to endure the indignity and embarrassment of knowing that, for weeks, millions of people were one just click away from seeing her naked."
A recent Peeping Tom case in California doesn't involve any celebrities, but it is sending shock waves through the retail industry. A maintenance worker at a North Hollywood Sears store was arrested in April for hiding video cameras in the store's dressing rooms and restrooms. Police say it's possible Alejandro Gamiz, 27, recorded thousands of unsuspecting women over a period of three years. Gamiz allegedly used up to 60 cameras. He's been charged with 30 counts of peeping into a changing room and 30 counts of using a concealed recording device.
Some people have alleged that the store's management knew about the cameras for three months before informing police. If those allegations are proven true, Illinois-based Sears, Roebuck and Co. could also face legal trouble.
"If management knew about it and failed to immediately report it to authorities, they could be held liable," says Sweet.
Unlike the case Erin Andrews case, most of the victims in the Sears case will likely never be identified and surely won't face the public embarrassment of having nude video posted all over the Internet. But that is probably little comfort for women who shopped in that store.