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Reported victims of Iowa City landlord peeping critical of police response

BY NICK HASSETT | NOVEMBER 06, 2012 6:30 AM

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Almost a week after an Iowa City landlord was arrested and charged with spying on several of his tenants in their showers, some residents criticized the police response.

“None of us feel safe at night,” said Ruth Lapointe, a resident of one of the apartment buildings owned by Iowa City landlord Elwyn Miller. “We haven’t been given any extra security. [The police] could be doing more.”

Miller allegedly used holes in the showers to peep on female tenants. One woman reportedly plugged up one of the holes with cotton balls, and after noticing they were on the floor, went outside her room and saw Miller climbing down from the attic. She then called the police. Miller was charged with invasion of privacy.

Saba Hafeez, another tenant of the complex, said she wasn’t completely satisfied with the charge Miller faces.

“There was just one count [of invasion of privacy], but there were five victims that we know of,” she said. “Our landlord got the minimal charge.”

Hafeez said she is considering a class action lawsuit against Miller.

Iowa City police Lt. Doug Hart said the investigation into Miller is ongoing.

“We have identified several other potential victims and are working toward determining if additional charges can be filed,” Hart said in a statement.

Hart also said the police have been assisting tenants of the apartment complexes owned by Miller and that they have referred the victims to legal outlets.

“We are in the process of making contact with all current tenants of property owned or managed by Mr. Miller,” he said.  “Tenants are being provided information on how to search for potential ‘peep’ holes. We have been also assisting in looking for them.”

Greg Bal, the supervising attorney at UI Student Legal Services, said he couldn’t say, because of privacy concerns, whether victims had sought help from the organization, but he advised any students thinking about taking legal action to talk with the service.

“This is the first case of this kind that I’ve seen here,” he said. “It doesn’t happen often.”

However, Lapointe said she was not contacted directly by the police.

“The notification was to put a business card in our mailbox,” she said, referring to how police officials contacted the tenants. “We didn’t even know what it was for until we talked to other people in the apartment.”

Lapointe said she was the first to tell residents of another building owned by Miller about what had happened.

“That, I think, is messed up,” she said. “The cops are taking their sweet time.”

As for what victims can do now, the path is not quite clear.

“Obviously, they can go to the police,” Bal said. “And they may be able to file a civil case, though it depends on the facts for each case.”

But for some of the victims, the experience has left them shocked.

“I never would have thought anything if this hadn’t happened,” Lapointe said. “I felt violated.”

Hafeez was still reeling from the event.

“You hear about things like this, but when it happens to you, it really hits you,” she said.


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