Jan. 8, 2009— -- The teddy bear was there for more than just a picnic: It turns out it may have been a spy.
An Omaha man is suing his ex-wife in federal court, alleging that she, or someone working on her behalf, planted a listening device in their daughter's ever-present teddy bear to gain information to use against him in an ongoing custody dispute.
William "Duke" Lewton, 36, and several acquaintances who claim they were recorded by the bear are suing Lewton's ex-wife Dianna Divingnzzo, her father and her former lawyer for allegedly recording conversations without their consent.
Their daughter Ellanna is 5 years old, and the couple has been involved in a custody dispute for four-and-a-half of those years. Lewton first learned of the allegedly bugged bear when a judge reviewed notes between Divingnzzo and a court-appointed therapist, in which the girl's mother said recordings were made.
When the judge learned of the recordings, he informed both parties' lawyers, letting Divingnzzo know the information was inadmissible in court, prompting Lewton to file a civil case.
According to the complaint, Sarpy County District Judge David Arterburn informed the parties that under Nebraska law, at least one person in a conversation must consent to being recorded.
No criminal charges have been filed against Divingnzzo or her father.
"[Divingnzzo] somehow found a way to get a bugging device and installed it in my daughter's teddy bear," Lewton told ABCNews.com. "Every time my daughter came to stay with me, I was being recorded. She had been listening for six months.
"Every intimate conversation was being listened to by my ex-spouse. It was invasive and intrusive. I'm living in a state of paranoia," he said.
The bear, named Little Bear, was, according to Lewton, little more than a bear head with a 2-foot-square blanket attached. He said he bought it for Ellanna several years ago at a JCPenney.
Lewton said he never saw the listening device or heard the recordings, but according to the complaint, his former father-in-law Sam Divingnzzo, whom Lewton is also suing, converted the conversations on CD and then transcribed them.
According to Lewton, the recordings contain hours of conversations recorded from December 2007 to May 2008 with his fiancée, neighbor, friends and relatives, six of whom are named as co-plaintiffs in the complaint.
The lawyer for Dianna Divingnzzo acknowledged the recordings exist but said it remained up to a jury to determine who bugged the bear and whether any crime had been committed.
Kelly Shattuck, who did not represent Divingnzzo during the custody hearings, said, "It is unknown who planted the device.
"I don't know who planted the device, if it was Dianna, or her father or someone else," said Shattuck. "The real question is what was the rationale behind wanting to record those conversations."
According to Shattuck, Lewton lost custody of his daughter more than four years ago and until recently did not seek regular contact.
The lawyer said the recordings were "tantamount to a parent who records a day care provider using closed circuit televisions," so-called nanny cams.
"Yes, such recording may violate someone's wish to be private, but sometimes there is an overriding interest to protect a minor child," he said. "The simple fact is that whoever made these recordings had a rationale for doing so. Despite what [Lewton] has told the media, there is clear evidence that he wasn't a perfect dad."
In October, a judge ordered the couple to share joint physical custody of the girl.
Divingnzzo recently filed a motion to move with Ellenna to another state, which is why Lewton said he decided to sue.