IOWA CITY – An Iowa City landlord was sentenced Monday to 150 days in jail for spying on six tenants through peepholes in their apartments in 2012.
Elwyn Miller, 64, was found guilty last month of six counts of invasion of privacy, a simple misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in prison.
Miller’s attorney, Mark Brown, argued Monday that Associate District Judge Stephen Gerard should give Miller a deferred judgment, which would allow Miller’s record to be cleared if he stayed out of trouble for a designated period of time.
“If I’m not allowed to work, my business fails and my two young employees would be out of work,” said Miller, who owns Miller Electric. “I plead for your mercy.”
But Gerard decided jail time was warranted.
“It’s generally agreed that the four walls of a person’s home create an inviolate space where people can shut out the world and enjoy the privacy of that space without intrusion,” Gerard said. “By the commission of the offense of invasion of privacy, the defendant took away their privacy for his own means.”
He sentenced Miller to 150 days in jail for the first count of invasion of privacy, which was committed against Linsie Mairet.
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 a 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.
For each of the remaining five counts, Gerard sentenced Miller to 365 days, to be served consecutively, but suspended the sentences. This means that Miller won’t have to serve this time if he complies with the other terms of his sentence.
Gerard fined Miller $1,000 per count. He will also be required to register as a sex offender. Gerard gave Miller 30 days before the start of his sentence.
Miller faces two civil lawsuits filed by former tenants. Those cases are scheduled for October 3 and Feb. 6, 2015.