Court Drops Case of 'Peeping Tom' in Target; Says Victim Was Not in Private Place

A man accused of using a camera to take pictures under the skirt of an unsuspecting 16-year-old girl at a Tulsa store did not commit a crime, a state appeals court has ruled.

The state Court of Criminal Appeals voted 4-1 in favor of Riccardo Gino Ferrante, who was arrested in 2006 for situating a camera underneath the girl's skirt at a Target store and taking photographs.

Ferrante, now 34, was charged under a "Peeping Tom" statute that requires the victim to be "in a place where there is a right to a reasonable expectation of privacy." Testimony indicated he followed the girl, knelt down behind her and placed the camera under her skirt.

In January 2007, Tulsa County District Judge Tom Gillert ordered Ferrante's felony charge dismissed. That was based upon a determination that "the person photographed was not in a place where she had a reasonable expectation of privacy," according to the appellate ruling issued last week.

The District Attorney's Office had appealed Gillert's ruling to the Court of Criminal Appeals.

"We agree with the district court's analysis," stated the opinion written by Appeals Judge Charles Johnson, with Judges Charles Chapel, David Lewis and Arlene Johnson concurring.

In a dissent, Appeals Judge Gary Lumpkin wrote that "what this decision does is state to women who desire to wear dresses that there is no expectation of privacy as to what they have covered with their dress."

"In other words, it is open season for peeping Toms in public places who want to look under a woman's dress," Lumpkin wrote.

He said he found the majority's finding of no reasonable expectation of privacy "interesting and disturbing."

Assistant District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler said he will explore the possibility of getting the Legislature to change the law.

"We certainly are going to seek to amend this statute to criminalize what we consider to be outrageous conduct," he said.

Ferrante's attorney, Kevin Adams, said Tuesday that Gillert "made the right decision" and that "it is really up to the Legislature to make this against the law if they want to do so.

"I think it is a scenario where the law has not caught up with technology," Adams said.