A man who allegedly hid a tiny camera in a cruise ship restroom has been arrested by the FBI and charged with video voyeurism and attempted possession of child exploitation material, according to court documents for the criminal complaint.
The Daily Mail reported that the man boarded the Royal Caribbean cruise line’s Harmony of the Seas ship in Miami, Florida, on April 29 for a 7-day cruise. The cruise headed to Saint Maarten, Puerto Rico, and the Bahamas before returning to Miami on May 6.
The man was arrested on May 3 during the cruise’s stop in Puerto Rico, also known as the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, which is an unincorporated territory of the United States.
According to the Daily Mail’s report, the man had allegedly placed a hidden camera—connected by Wi-Fi to his phone—in a stall of a public restroom on the top deck of the ship on April 30, the second day of the voyage, while the vessel was in international waters. The restroom was between a bar and a surfing simulator.
The next day, on May 1, a passenger spotted the camera and notified the ship’s crew. The ship’s security staff then located and removed the camera, on which they found a Micro SD card containing several hours of video files.
Authorities say the camera had taken MP4 video files showing over 150 persons, including 40 minors, while they used the bathroom or sometimes changed in and out of swimsuits in the restroom stall.
Court documents stated that the persons recorded often became naked as they changed clothing. The persons included children as young as 4 years old.
The footage reportedly began with images of the perpetrator installing the camera in the bathroom and adjusting its angle so that it was aimed directly at the toilet in the stall.
The ship’s security staff confronted the man, who allegedly admitted that he’d placed the camera in the bathroom and had tried to check on it and discovered it was gone. The cruise line then notified federal law enforcement.
When the ship reached Puerto Rico, the man and the camera were turned over to the FBI.
The man, who has not yet been formally indicted, was released on May 8 under the third-party custodial watch of his wife after posting an unsecured bond of $25,000, according to CBS News.
Court records show that his bond includes these conditions:
- He had to surrender his passport;
- He cannot have internet access; and
- He cannot have unsupervised contact with any minors, including his own children.
FBI investigators are attempting to identify the victims and contact them, which they are required to do. The FBI has posted a notice online alerting former passengers of the event and seeking victim information.
What are Texas charges for video voyeurism?
Perhaps you’re wondering what the charges and punishments would be for such crimes in the state of Texas.
Texas Penal Code Chapter 21 on sexual offenses holds that voyeurism—watching others’ intimate behavior without consent for sexual gratification—is a crime when the victim was in a dwelling or structure in which they had a reasonable expectation of privacy.
The offense is a Class C misdemeanor for which punishment is community service or a fine of up to $500.
However, the crime becomes a Class B misdemeanor “if it is shown on the trial of the offense that the actor has previously been convicted two or more times of an offense under this section.”
Punishment for a Class B misdemeanor in Texas includes a fine of up to $2,000, a jail term of up to 180 days, or both.
Even worse, the crime of voyeurism in Texas becomes a state jail felony “if the victim was a child younger than 14 years of age at the time of the offense.”
Punishment for a state jail felony in Texas includes a fine of up to $10,000 and a jail term of between 180 days and 2 years. Parole does not apply to state jail felonies.
As noted by Texas Penal Code Chapter 21, that offense occurs when an offender, “without the other person’s consent and with intent to invade the privacy of the other person,” photographs or by videotape or other electronic means “records, broadcasts, or transmits a visual image of an intimate area of another person if the other person has a reasonable expectation that the intimate area is not subject to public view.”
The law also specifies that the offense applies “when the other person is in a bathroom or changing room,” as was the case on the cruise ship.
Invasive visual recording is a state jail felony.
What are Texas laws on child exploitation material?
As for Texas laws comparable to the federal offense of attempted possession of child exploitation material, Texas Penal Code Chapter 43 on public indecency cites several related offenses.
These include possession or promotion of child pornography, electronic transmission of certain visual material depicting a minor and possession or promotion of lewd visual material depicting a child.
All such offenses fall under the general category of child pornography, which is an extremely serious crime in Texas with harsh punishments.
- Possession or promotion of child pornography is a third-degree felony in Texas. It becomes a second-degree felony (which is worse) if the person had 1 previous conviction for the offense. It becomes a first-degree felony (even worse) if the person had 2 or more previous convictions for the offense.
- Electronic transmission of certain visual material depicting a minor is a Class C misdemeanor in Texas. The offense can become a Class B misdemeanor or a Class A misdemeanor depending on prior convictions and other factors.
- Possession or promotion of lewd visual material depicting a child is a state jail felony in Texas. It can increase to a second- or third-degree felony depending on prior convictions.
- Texas punishments for a second-degree felony include a fine of up to $10,000 and a prison sentence of 2 to 20 years.
- Texas punishments for a third-degree felony include a fine of up to $10,000 and a prison sentence of 2 to 10 years.
Get an experienced sex crime defense lawyer
If you live in Houston, Conroe, The Woodlands, Katy, Sugar Land or elsewhere in Harris County, Montgomery County or Fort Bend County, and you or a family member faces such charges, you must get an experienced sex crime attorney to fight for your legal rights.
The award-winning Neal Davis Law Firm has years of experience defending the rights of persons facing sex crime claims, allegations or charges.
With punishments being so severe for sex crimes in Texas, particularly those involving children, it’s vital that you get the best Houston-area defense attorney you can find. Contact us today to arrange a confidential consultation for your case.