Tale of the tape 

Usually when a prosecutor gets a conviction, he can move on to the next case. But not Powell County Attorney Chris Miller.

On Dec. 16, three high school boys from Powell County High School pleaded guilty to surreptitiously videotaping athletes in the girls’ locker room for the past year. Under a plea agreement supported by testimony from County Sheriff Scott Howard as well as a majority of the girls’ parents, the three seniors were sentenced to 30 days in jail. They must also deliver face-to-face apologies to female victims at the school and undergo criminal evaluations.

But Miller says his job isn’t done yet. Not until the videotapes are destroyed.

The boys have a chance to appeal their convictions but after that deadline has expired Miller says the videotapes will no longer be needed as evidence and, therefore, will have no reason to exist. So he plans to petition the judge for permission to incinerate them. He says doing so will prevent further injustice.

“Every time the tapes are viewed it’s a re-victimization,” Miller says. “We want to limit the amount of handling these tapes get and under no circumstances do we want to make copies. I just have real reservations about producing copies or granting access to the videotapes.”

Almost everyone agrees with Miller—most of the victims at Powell County High School, most of their parents, and even most of the victims from other high schools who may or may not have been videotaped in the boys’ locker room while in Deer Lodge for tournament play—but not quite everyone. After the criminal operation was disclosed in November, two attorneys contacted Miller about possible civil suits which might require the videotapes as evidence.

“That has driven my victims crazy,” Miller says.

To date, only Miller and Howard have viewed the videotapes in their entirety. Another person viewed a portion to help the two men identify victims for the criminal case and to help Miller compile a Jane Doe list which he plans to file it with the court. He says the list will substitute as evidence in the event of a civil case.

By Miller’s definition of justice, the images on the videotapes are not essential anyway. Most of the girls are unidentifiable, he says, because they walk in and out of sight rapidly and because the camera was focused on bodies, not faces. But they are all equally victims.

“Any of the girls who used those facilities during the period we’re talking about has the right to feel like a victim whether they’re on the video or not,” Miller says. “If the girls feel creeped out because someone may have been watching them, then they are victims too.”

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