Proposed Federal Law Targets Video Voyeurs

Proposed Federal Law
Targets Video Voyeurs

W A S H I N G T O N, April 16

Susan Wilson's family went about their everyday business in their home — believing they were alone. Meanwhile, a neighbor had been videotaping their most intimate moments.

The man who secretly videotaped the Wilsons violated their trust and created a private nightmare.

Now the invasion of privacy that the Wilson family experienced will become the subject of public scrutiny, as Congress looks at a bill that would make video voyeurism a federal crime.

The Wilsons, who were secretly videotaped in their Monroe, La., home, inspired the proposed legislation. Their story became the basis for a Lifetime TV movie that aired in January called Video Voyeur: the Susan Wilson Story.

Wilson told ABCNEWS' Good Morning America her family couldn't believe an established punishment didn't exist for those who videotaped others without their knowledge.

"Well, I was already feeling vulnerable and unprotected and then when I found there was no law against it, I felt even more so," she said.

Actress Angie Harmon played Susan Wilson in the TV movie and has joined Wilson and Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Democrat from Louisiana, in announcing the bill on Capitol Hill today.

"What's even creepier about it is that it's not just celebrities anymore that are victimized in this way, it's everyone," Harmon said on Good Morning America. The actress said privacy laws need to be developed to regulate the latest developments in technology, whether it relates to videotape or live feeds on the Internet.

Creepy Feeling Lingers

The federal bill targets anyone who uses a camera or similar recording device to record another person "either for a lewd or lascivious purpose without that person's consent," placing them in violation of the law. The penalty would be a fine or imprisonment up to three years. If a minor were the one recorded, the imprisonment would be up to 10 years, under the bill's provisions.

In a 1999 interview with ABCNEWS, Wilson said her image of her own home changed drastically after she found out a neighbor was spying on her with a video camera.

"It gives me the creeps still," Wilson said.

The violator of the family's privacy, Steve Glover, had been a longtime family friend and fellow church member of the Wilsons.

"He seemed to know everything about me," Wilson said. "Everything that I'd done. He just knew everything."

She became so convinced that Glover was spying on her, that she searched his home one day while visiting, and found a videotape. After pressing play, Wilson watched in horror as her bedroom filled the screen.

Video Cameras in Bedroom Ceiling

It turns out there was hidden recording equipment in the Wilsons' attic, and holes cut into the ceiling above their bedroom and master bathroom.

But what shocked Wilson even more was learning that Glover had broken no laws with his voyeuristic videotaping. He eventually pleaded guilty to unauthorized entry into the Wilson home, received probation and was ordered to pay $2,000 for damages done to his neighbor's home.

Wilson went on a crusade, and convinced state lawmakers in Louisiana to pass a law against video voyeurism, making it a federal crime.

Only five states have similar laws against video voyeurism: California, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi and Ohio, though Louisiana's is the broadest in scope. Connecticut prohibits video surveillance in employee locker rooms and rest rooms, while New York prohibits concealed cameras in fitting rooms.