`Up­skirt­ing' in­ci­dents re­port­edly on rise

PeeP­ing tom laws • Pho­tos taken up dresses of women has prompted changes to leg­is­la­tion

Tulsa World - - News - By Josh Wal­lace The Ok­la­homan jwal­lace@ok­la­homan.com

OK­LA­HOMA CITY — Dur­ing a late-night, ten­sion-filled bud­get meet­ing in a crowded Capi­tol con­fer­ence room in May, Travis Goss Brauer sat on the floor, just a few feet from where a pro­tester stood wear­ing a blue dress.

Brauer, 29, an aide to Gov. Mary Fallin, placed his phone on the floor near one of the wo­man's stiletto heels in what a wit­ness later told author­i­ties ap­peared to be an at­tempt to take pho­tos or videos up the wo­man's dress.

“Up­skirt­ing” is the in­ten­tional tak­ing of pho­to­graphs up the dresses of un­sus­pect­ing women in pub­lic places and, in some cases, post­ing the im­ages on the in­ter­net. The prac­tice, aided by the pro­lif­er­a­tion of dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy, has prompted a flurry of leg­is­la­tion in states seek­ing to com­bat what some vic­tims char­ac­ter­ize as an­other form of sex­ual as­sault.

“Some peo­ple may say `well gosh, it's kind of a mi­nor deal isn't it?' Well, you know, it's re­ally not to th­ese young ladies and women who have this hap­pen to them,” Ok­la­homa County Dis­trict At­tor­ney David Prater said. “It's a fright­en­ing deal. It's kind of like peep­ing Tom-type si­t­u­a­tions, if you think that those are mi­nor events, that's your next bur­glar, that's your next rapist, and so it's a sig­nif­i­cant in­ci­dent to us.”

Such crimes of­ten may go un­re­ported. In many cases, vic­tims might not even be aware they've been tar­geted, said Ok­la­homa City po­lice Mas­ter Sgt. Gary Knight.

“Of­ten times a wit­ness will tell some­body ... `Hey, there's a guy over there tak­ing pic­tures up women's dresses or skirts,'” he said.

That's what hap­pened in Brauer's case. The al­leged vic­tim didn't know she had pos­si­bly been recorded un­til an­other wo­man who'd seen Brauer place his cam­era on the floor ap­proached her min­utes later.

Brauer learned of the al­le­ga­tions against him the next day, and de­clined when Ok­la­homa High­way Pa­trol troop­ers asked him to turn over his phone. He later agreed to sur­ren­der the phone, but in a meet­ing with troop­ers on May 30, told them he'd lost it at a lake.

About a week later, he no­ti­fied troop­ers that he'd backed up data from his phone to his lap­top. But after an­a­lyz­ing the lap­top data, author­i­ties found about an hour of ac­tiv­ity was miss­ing from the day of the meet­ing.

Author­i­ties also found that Brauer, after learn­ing of the al­le­ga­tions against him, had made mul­ti­ple in­ter­net searches on how to delete im­ages and how to “com­pletely wipe a phone,” ac­cord­ing to the af­fi­davit.

Un­der Ok­la­homa's peep­ingTom law, if caught with up­skirt pho­tos, Brauer would have faced a mis­de­meanor charge with a max­i­mum pun­ish­ment of one year in jail and a $5,000 fine.

“I think the photo it­self ought to be (a felony). Not to put peo­ple in prison, but you need to get peo­ple on the radar to de­ter­mine ex­actly what kind of a threat they are and charg­ing with just a mis­de­meanor doesn't do it,” Prater said.

While many states have sim­i­lar laws, murky word­ing has led to a hand­ful of le­gal re­ver­sals.

Last year, the con­vic­tion of a Georgia man who ad­mit­ted to tak­ing an up­skirt shot of a wo­man at a gro­cery store was thrown out after the Georgia Court of Ap­peals ruled he hadn't bro­ken the law.

Bran­don Lee Gary, who had for­merly worked at the gro­cery store, had recorded videos up the wo­man's skirt but was found not to have vi­o­lated the state's in­va­sion of pri­vacy law be­cause the in­ci­dent was hap­pen­ing at a pub­lic place.

In May, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed a bill into law mak­ing it il­le­gal to take up­skirt pho­tos. Those con­victed of the crime now face prison time and a fine up to $10,000.

In re­sponse to the court rul­ing, law­mak­ers quickly drew up and passed a bill out­law­ing the prac­tice. Those con­victed of the crime now face up to 2½ years in jail and a fine up to $5,000.

While Brauer was not charged un­der Ok­la­homa's peep­ing Tom laws, he was charged on Tues­day in Ok­la­homa County Dis­trict Court with a felony charge of of­fer­ing false or fraud­u­lent ev­i­dence and de­struc­tion of ev­i­dence, a mis­de­meanor.

He was booked into the Ok­la­homa County jail on Thurs­day morn­ing.


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