Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Man Who Secretly Filmed Girls in Locker Room Guilty of Inducing Them to Pose for Illicit Video—Appeals Court
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A man who indirectly herded minors in front of a hidden video camera and clandestinely filmed them undressing was guilty of inducing them to pose for an illicit video, the Fourth District Court of Appeal ruled yesterday.
In a 2-1 decision, Div. Two upheld the convictions of San Diego resident Ronald Wayne Hobbs, who secretly videotaped at least 45 girls as they changed in and out of their bathing suits during a high school swim meet.
Prior to a May 2003 swim meet held at Valley View High School, in Moreno Valley, Hobbs snuck into the girls’ locker room at the school and set up his video camera so he could film female student athletes—ranging from ages eight to 18—as they were changing.
He stationed himself in a coaches’ office located at the end of the locker room from which he had a good view of the room, and covered the windows of the office with paper and tape. He then made a small hole in the paper and positioned his lens so he could film through the hole undetected.
In order to block off use of the rows of lockers that were outside his camera range, he set up cones and caution tape, which he found in the office, and posted “Do Not Enter” signs in those areas.
For two days, he filmed girls who were competing in the swim meet, zooming in on their breast, crotch, and buttocks areas particularly when they were about to undress.
At some point on the second day, the intruder was spotted by a custodian who had entered a back room to fix the water heater for the showers. Hobbs successfully fled from the worker, but was eventually caught by police with the help of a bloodhound.
During an investigation of Hobbs’ home computer, the police found many photos of females, including minors, in various stages of undress. Some appeared to be aware that they were being photographed, while others did not.
An email stored on his computer suggested he was a contributor to a website called voyeurweb.com.
Hobbs was charged with two counts of burglary, and 40 counts of violating Penal Code Sec. 311.4(c). The latter section punishes anyone who “knowingly promotes, employs, uses, persuades, induces or coerces a minor . . . to engage in . . . either posing or modeling . . . for purposes of preparing any . . . videotape . . . involving sexual conduct by a minor[.]”
Following a court trial, Riverside Superior Court Judge W. Charles Morgan found the defendant guilty on all counts.
Hobbs appealed his Sec. 311.4(c) convictions on the ground that he never had personal interaction with the girls he filmed. Sec. 311.4(c), he contended, requires that the victims be engaged in posing or modeling “at the direction” of another.
Writing for the Court of Appeal, Justice Manuel A. Ramirez said nothing in the statute requires person-to-person interaction between the defendant and the victims. He added that there was “no logical link” between directing victims and the Legislature’s intent to target the person filming the pornographic material.
Hobbs’ conduct, though indirect, fell within Sec. 311.4(c), Ramirez explained:
“Defendant took advantage of the fact that the victims were in a place where he knew they would expose themselves. Further, as the trial court concluded, he manipulated their environment so as to further take advantage of their vulnerability. In this regard, he posed them, without having to direct them in person.”
The justice concluded:
“Defendant posed the victims by herding them with the signs, cones and caution tape to a position most favorable to filming, the same as if he had been in the room directing them to stand in front of the camera.”
Justice Douglas P. Miller concurred in the opinion.
Dissenting, Justice Betty Ann Richli said that while Hobbs’ use of cones, signs and caution tape were sufficient to satisfy the causation element of the statute, there simply was no evidence the victims he filmed were engaging in “posing or modeling.”
Posing and modeling require that the subject know, or at least contemplate the possibility, that he or she is being observed, Richli maintained.
She went on to explain:
“[A] person going about his or her business, without knowingly posing or modeling, simply is not posing or modeling at all. Otherwise, we would all be posing and modeling all the time. . . . If that was what the Legislature really had in mind, it would have omitted the words ‘posing or modeling’ entirely; it would have merely required that the minor engage in sexual conduct.”
Richli noted that Hobbs’ actions were “repulsive and vile” and rendered him guilty of other sexual gratification crimes, such as the misdemeanor of being a “Peeping Tom.”
The case is People v. Hobbs, 07 S.O.S. 3095.
Copyright 2007, Metropolitan News Company