Iowa City landlord convicted of peeping on tenants

Convicted of six counts of invasion of privacy; sentencing set Feb. 10

Erin Jordan
Published: January 2 2014 | 11:55 am - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 1:33 am in
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An Iowa City landlord has been convicted of spying on six tenants through peepholes in their apartments in the fall of 2012.

Associate District Court Judge Stephen Gerard rendered a nine-page verdict earlier this week finding Elwyn Miller, 64, guilty of six counts of invasion of privacy, a serious misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,875 fine.

He will be sentenced Feb. 10 in Johnson County District Court.

“The defendant’s unique position as owner and landlord allowed him essentially unlimited access to the places where he could view his tenants without their knowledge,” Gerard wrote. “The defendant admitted to police officers that he knowingly viewed the tenants of the properties through the holes he had made.”

In a bench trial Sept. 24, several female University of Iowa students said they felt violated after learning their landlord had spied on them while they were undressed.

Linsie Mairet, who lived on the top level of a 12-apartment complex at 639 S. Lucas St, described being in the shower Oct. 31, 2012, and hearing noises coming from the ceiling above her apartment. She looked up and noticed a hole by the vent. Some cotton balls she had previously stuffed in the hole were gone and she could see into the attic.

Mairet got out of the shower and ran to the door, where she looked into the hallway and saw Miller climbing down a ladder from the attic.

Mairet got dressed, went into the hallway and confronted her landlord.

“I am calling the police and I want my lease terminated immediately,” Mairet testified that she told Miller. He responded that he was sorry and left in his truck.

Mairet reported the incident to police, who discovered similar peepholes into four apartments in that building and two apartments in other buildings.

Miller’s attorney, Mark Brown, argued Sept. 24 that the state failed to prove Miller had observed the tenants naked or that Miller viewed the tenants to arouse himself. Gerard dismissed those points.

“The placement of the peepholes clearly supports the inference that the defendant’s purpose in utilizing the peepholes to view the female tenants in their bathrooms and bedroom was for the purpose of arousing or gratifying his sexual desires as he viewed the women in the nude,” Gerard wrote in the ruling.

Assistant Johnson County Attorney Anne Lahey had charged Miller with 11 counts of invasion of privacy, which included two counts each for five tenants. Gerard said there was no way to determine how many times Miller spied on the tenants and found Miller guilty of one count for each victim.

"It's the right decision, given the evidence," Lahey said Thursday.

Miller faces two civil lawsuits filed by former tenants. Those cases are scheduled for October 3 and Feb. 6, 2015.

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