Secret tapes lead to arrest

Man is accused of making videos of two female tenants

Four cameras found

Suspect charged under recent law on illegal surveillance

April 12, 2001|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

An Elkridge man accused of videotaping his female tenants in their rooms with pinhole cameras was charged yesterday under a relatively new state law that makes most secret surveillance illegal.

Howard County police arrested 58-year-old Edward George Campion on four misdemeanor counts yesterday, three weeks after one of the two tenants, a 22-year-old woman, found video monitoring equipment set up in a basement storage room. She saw images of the other woman's bathroom when she pushed play. The storage room was normally locked, police said.

Officers who searched the house, in the 6100 block of Fairbourne Court, found tiny cameras in two bathrooms and a third camera in a room that contained a tanning bed Campion allowed the women to use, according to police and charging documents. The documents said a fourth camera was found in a bathroom in another part of the residence. They also found videotapes that showed the women bathing and dressing, according to charging documents.

Each woman had rented a bedroom and bathroom during the past two months, said Howard County police spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn. Neither woman still lives there, she said.

The women had apparently been videotaped from the time they moved in until the discovery of the equipment, though police found no evidence that anyone had been previously taped, Llewellyn said.

Campion, who lived downstairs in the Fairbourne Court home, was charged under an 18-month-old law that makes it illegal to videotape someone in a private place without his or her consent.

The law also allows residents to use video surveillance in their homes for appropriate purposes such as monitoring a nanny.

Campion, who has an unlisted phone number, could not be reached for comment.

Officials said they believe that the Campion case is Howard County's first use of the law. Del. Dana Lee Dembrow, a Silver Spring Democrat who sponsored the legislation, said that it has been used elsewhere.

Howard County officials also said yesterday that they think they have a prosecutable case against Campion.

Although Campion lives in the Fairbourne Court house, his living area is separate from where the women lived, Llewellyn said.

He also had a "legal contract" to rent space to the women, Llewellyn said. One moved in two months ago, and the other six weeks ago, she said.

"We think there's enough evidence to proceed based on the facts and circumstances of the case," said Assistant State's Attorney Lynn Marshall.

The bill took a few years to win General Assembly approval, Dembrow noted, because of concerns about how to address videotaping such as that alleged in the Howard case, while protecting legitimate uses. As a result, the law has loopholes, he said.

Campion was arrested under two sections of the law, one that addresses the use of cameras and the other "prurient intent."

Each section carries the possibility of jail time -- a maximum of 30 days for the camera offense and six months for the intent.

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