School Board Member Accused of Videotaping Stepdaughter

A school board member in Chickasha, Oklahoma, has been arrested on peeping tom complaints after his wife allegedly discovered that he was taking secret video of her daughter. Ryan Eric Copeland was arrested and booked into the Grady County Jail after his wife found video of her daughter undressing and turned the discs in to the district attorney. According to reports, Mrs. Copeland found the discs in a gun safe last week. The videos revealed Copeland setting up a recording device in her daughters bedroom and then retrieving the device after the girl had left the room. One video shows the girl entering her room and getting dressed after a shower, and the other shows the girl changing out of a swimsuit and into dry clothes. In both videos, the girl appears nude in plain view of the camera. Upon discovering the discs, Mrs. Copeland replaced them with blank discs so as not to tip off her husband that she discovered his crime, and then reported him to the Grady County District Attorney. Police arrested Copeland on Saturday, and the DA's office formally charged him on Monday. Oklahoma's peeping tom statute is found in 21 O.S.§ 1171. The law protects a person's reasonable expectation of privacy by criminalizing and prosecuting violations of that privacy: A. Every person who hides, waits or otherwise loiters in the vicinity of any private dwelling house, apartment building, any other place of residence, or in the vicinity of any locker room, dressing room, restroom or any other place where a person has a right to a reasonable expectation of privacy, with the unlawful and willful intent to watch, gaze, or look upon any person in a clandestine manner, shall, upon conviction, be guilty of a misdemeanor. The violator shall be punished by imprisonment in the county jail for a term of not more than one (1) year, or by a fine not to exceed Five Thousand Dollars ($5,000.00), or by both such fine and imprisonment. B. Every person who uses photographic, electronic or video equipment in a clandestine manner for any illegal, illegitimate, prurient, lewd or lascivious purpose with the unlawful and willful intent to view, watch, gaze or look upon any person without the knowledge and consent of such person when the person viewed is in a place where there is a right to a reasonable expectation of privacy, or who publishes or distributes any image obtained from such act, shall, upon conviction, be guilty of a felony. The violator shall be punished by imprisonment in the custody of the Department of Corrections for a term of not more than five (5) years, or by a fine not exceeding Five Thousand Dollars ($5,000.00), or by both such fine and imprisonment. C. Every person who uses photographic, electronic or video equipment in a clandestine manner for any illegal, illegitimate, prurient, lewd or lascivious purpose with the unlawful and willful intent to view, watch, gaze or look upon any person and capture an image of a private area of a person without the knowledge and consent of such person and knowingly does so under circumstances in which a reasonable person would believe that the private area of the person would not be visible to the public, regardless of whether the person is in a public or private place shall, upon conviction, be guilty of a misdemeanor. The violator shall be punished by imprisonment in the county jail for a term of not more than one (1) year, or by a fine not exceeding Five Thousand Dollars ($5,000.00), or by both such fine and imprisonment. D. As used in this section, the phrase "private area of the person" means the naked or undergarment-clad genitals, pubic area, buttocks, or any portion of the areola of the female breast of that individual. Obtaining covert video of a person in a state of partial or full undress in a place where that person has a reasonable expectation of privacy--such as a bedroom or bathroom--is a felony. If convicted, Copeland faces a maximum of 5 years in prison for each felony count. Although the age of Copeland's victim has not been released at this time, it can be assumed from the charges that she is at least 16 years of age. If she were under the age of 16, he would likely have been charged with Lewd or Indecent Proposals or Acts to a Child Under 16. This statute (21 O.S. § 1123) makes it illegal to "look upon . . . the body or private parts of aany child under sixteen (16) years of age in any lewd or lascivious manner." Lewd acts with a minor is a Level 3 sex offense punishable by 3 to 20 years in prison and lifetime sex offender registration. It can also be assumed that the victim is at least 18 years of age. Otherwise, Copeland would likely have been charged with manufacturing child pornography for producing video of a naked minor under the age of 18.

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