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IC landlord accused of "peeping" on tenants waives right to a jury trial

BY ABIGAIL MEIER | SEPTEMBER 25, 2013 5:00 AM

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The trial for an Iowa City landlord accused of “peeping” on tenants opened and closed on Tuesday after he waived his right to a jury. Associate District Court Judge Stephen Gerard will decide the man’s fate within the next few weeks.

Elwyn Miller, 64, was charged with 11 counts of invasion of privacy in late October and early November 2012. Miller allegedly spied on tenants through manufactured holes in the ceilings and walls of the residents’ bathrooms and bedrooms.

“I was in the shower, and I heard muffled noises coming from the ceiling of my bathroom,” said Linsie Mairet, one of 10 witnesses who testified at Miller’s trial.

Mairet had been a tenant at an apartment complex owned by Miller since August 2010. She said there was a small hole by the vent on the ceiling of the bathroom near the shower.

She put cotton balls in the hole in early October 2012. On the morning of Oct. 31, the cotton balls were no longer there. Mairet said she had been taking a shower when she had heard the muffled noises coming from the area near the vent.

“I wrapped a towel around myself and shut the lights off and ran out of the room to put on clothes,” she said.

She said she ran to the front door and looked out into the hallway and there was a ladder directly outside of her door with Miller climbing down from the attic. She then chased after him and said she was calling the police and wanted to move out.

She admitted in her testimony she could not see past the hole because of the darkness. Defense attorney Mark Brown argued she and other witnesses had no way of knowing for sure whether a person was actually watching them or if that person was aroused.

He said a sign of arousal would be an indicator of an invasion of privacy.

After the witness reported the incident, Iowa City police Officers Andrew Rich and Michael McKenna investigated the scene. Miller allegedly told police he was in the attic doing maintenance work, but Rich submitted pictures to the court showing holes in the vents along with a worn path from the attic entrance to the holes.

“The first thing that I noted was a worn path, which I later realized were the paths to the exhaust fans,” Rich said. “Each exhaust fan had a consistent hole, and as long as the light was on, you could see a pretty large portion of those bathrooms.”

While he did not testify on Tuesday, Miller allegedly stated in a recorded interview with Rich that he viewed the residents at least two to three times during their time there and went to the peepholes at least once a week.

After the incident was reported to police, more alleged victims came forward with similar stories and 10 other charges were filed against Miller.

“I feel more violated, because I trusted our landlord,” said Saba Hafeez, another tenant of Miller’s at the time.

Two other civil cases have also been filed against Miller, citing similar violations of privacy. Three residents who filed one of the cases— Ruth Lapointe, Jordan Horton, and Elijah McNeish — also testified against Miller on Tuesday.

Overall, witnesses said they were surprised and disgusted by the discovery of these alleged invasions of their privacy.

“It made me very uncomfortable, the day before, I had just told my boyfriend we had a really nice landlord and a cheap place to live, and finding out something was going on really upset me,” Hafeez said.


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