February 14, 2007 4:00 AM PST

Police blotter: Wireless voyeur appeals 56-year term

"Police blotter" is a weekly CNET News.com report on the intersection of technology and the law.

What: Video voyeur who used 2.4GHz wireless camera to watch his 18-year-old stepdaughter appeals his sentence of 56 years in prison.

When: A Louisiana state appeals court (second circuit) rules on December 13.

Outcome: Court says 56 years in prison is "constitutionally excessive."

What happened, according to court documents:
In early 2005, James Boudreaux was sharing a mobile home with his son and his 18-year-old stepdaughter, with whom he'd been living almost without interruption since she was 11 years old.

What the stepdaughter did not know is that Boudreaux had installed a RadioShack 2.4GHz wireless camera in the entertainment center in her bedroom. The diminutive color cameras sell for $20 on RadioShack's Web site, can run on batteries or an AC adapter, and are part of a $100 surveillance system that includes video-out capability on the base station.

Boudreaux took advantage of that function by recording his stepdaughter for about four months, sometimes while she was dressing and undressing, and at times while she was completely nude. And, in the words of the court: "Other tapes allegedly showed some of the victim's young female friends partially or completely naked, and one tape purportedly depicted defendant masturbating while holding a pair of the victim's underpants up to his face."

His stepdaughter, who is not named in the court opinion, found out what was going on when she knocked on Boudreaux's door to give him some cigarettes she purchased on his behalf. Her stepfather was standing naked in front of the television. He quickly stopped the tape he was watching and jumped into bed--but not before she spotted what was on the screen.

That led her to enter his bedroom later, when he was gone, and discover videotapes depicting her and several friends in various stages of undress. She disconnected the camera installed in her bedroom. She then confronted Boudreaux, who replied that it was his trailer and he could film whatever he wanted.

Boudreaux kicked her out of the home a few months later, at which time the stepdaughter asked the sheriff's office for help in retrieving her personal items. She mentioned the video camera and tapes, which led to a search warrant and Boudreaux being arrested.

Tammy Philley, a female sergeant in Louisiana's Ouachita Parish, viewed the tapes and found that seven different partially nude or fully nude young women had been recorded. Philley noted that there was no evidence that Boudreaux had threatened any of the women he recorded or had tried to convince them not to press charges.

Boudreaux said he was very sorry and blamed the situation on an addiction to both alcohol and painkillers. His adult criminal record included urinating in public (1980), driving while intoxicated (1983), bringing marijuana into a jail when serving his DWI time (1984), illegal use of weapons (1989), simple battery (1990), attempted possession of cocaine (1992) and another DWI (1999).

The problem for Boudreaux is that Louisiana had made "video voyeurism" a serious crime as a result of a case involving Susan Wilson, who found that she had scant legal recourse when a neighbor implanted a camera in her home. Wilson's case became mildly famous and resulted in a 2002 made-for-TV movie.

The Louisiana law outlaws any lewd, nonconsensual "observing, viewing, photographing, filming or videotaping" of "any portion of the female breast below the top of the areola or of any portion of the pubic hair, anus, cleft of the buttocks, vulva or genitals." Penalties are prison sentences of up to five years without parole or probation. (Read literally, photographs of certain body parts belonging to Paris Hilton and Britney Spears might be deemed unlawful.)

Boudreaux pleaded guilty to 14 counts of video voyeurism and was sentenced to four years of hard labor for each count--a total of 56 years in prison. He would also have to register as a sex offender, according to state law.

That is an unusually long sentence. Federal statistics show that the average total incarceration time imposed by state courts for murder is 18 years; rape is 8 years; and robbery is about 6.5 years.

Boudreaux appealed his sentence as excessive, and the appeals court agreed. In mid-December, the appeals court sent it back down to the trial judge for resentencing.

Excerpt from the appeals court's opinion on the Boudreaux case (PDF):
Defendant was 42 years old at the time of sentencing. His criminal history consists primarily of drug- and alcohol-related offenses. In fact, his conviction in 1984 of bringing marijuana into a correctional facility occurred while he was serving time on the weekends for DWI. Defendant's last violent offense was a conviction for simple battery in 1990, which arose out of an argument with his sister.

Any sentence for video voyeurism under La. R.S. 14:283B(3) must be served without benefit of parole, probation or suspension of sentence. As a practical matter, 14 four-year terms without benefit of parole to be served consecutively is a life sentence. Even as a second felony offender, defendant would have been subject to a fixed term.

Although defendant's video voyeurism does not involve any physical contact or violence, it is nonetheless a reprehensible violation of a personal nature. At 18 years old, the victim may not legally have been a minor, but she was a young and callow girl. Defendant perpetrated the crime against someone he had essentially raised as a daughter.

According to the victim, her mother and defendant began dating when she was 8 years old and married when she was 11. After the parties separated in April of 2003, the victim lived with her mother for approximately four months, then moved in with defendant. She lived with defendant and defendant's son until June 2005, when defendant ordered her to leave.

The experience has had, and undoubtedly will continue to have, a significant effect on the victim. However, defendant's activities all formed a part of a single scheme or plan, something that the trial court did not adequately address at sentencing.

While it is within the trial court's discretion to impose sentences consecutively in an appropriate "scheme or plan" case, in the instant matter, the imposition of a 56-year term without parole is out of proportion to the offense and appears to impose a purposeless and needless infliction of pain and suffering.

For the reasons set forth above, defendant's sentence is vacated, and the matter is remanded to the trial court for resentencing.

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23 comments

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WOW
56 years for a non-violent crime in which no one was physically hurt or even touched?
Sex offender - yes. Jail time - yes. But lets get real. Give then penalties outlined, he'd have been better off killing her when she walked in on him. And that obviously points to a flawed penalty system. Any system which makes murdering the witness a better proposition than facing the consequences invites abuse.
Posted by skeptik (590 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Maybe
they should up the penalty on murder. not lower the penalty for sex crimes. did you ever think about that?
Posted by sydala (10 comments )
Link Flag
A Sticky Law
While what he did to, basically, his daughter.

But... that law seems a bit vague. "observing, viewing" photos... if they nailed me for everytime or instance I have seen those stupid Britney, Paris, or every other actress that has had an "accident" I would have had multiple life sentences.

I hope this law isnt too vague to be upholdable (is that a word?) long term. I assume it was meant to cover people viewing illegally filmed/photographed content.
Posted by arluthier (112 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I think you could argue consent
If those stupid skanks want to expose themselves in public, I think it's pretty hard to argue that you're viewing their genitals without their consent.
Posted by extinctone (214 comments )
Link Flag
Don't be Stupid
There is a huge difference between seeing someone's genitalia by accident (or because they purposely flash you), and purposely PLANTING a camera in someone's bedroom for the express purpose of catching them naked.

I hate it when people try to make excuses for sick freaks like the guy in this article with lame arguments like this one.
Posted by sydala (10 comments )
Link Flag
Hmmm
"Boudreaux said he was very sorry and blamed the situation on an addiction to both alcohol and painkillers"

Of course... now-a-days it's never the perp's fault it's always something else...

The time is excessive... but he should keep that sentence until he actually feels remorse and comes clean... not blaming it on his addictions.
Posted by volterwd (466 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I completely Agree with Volterwd
I am so sick of perps blaming their behavior on substance abuse or on being abused themselves as children. They try so hard to immediately take the spotlight off of themselves as perpetrators and off of their victims as victims, and they try to turn themselves into victims.

Foley is a classic recent example of this. He's found to have had contact or email or whathaveyou with pages that was less than appropriate (to put it nicely). So what does he do? Talk a lot about how badly he feels that he may have scarred said child/pages for life, and about his ensuing guilt over the matter? Ummm... Not so much.

He of course, goes to rehab. (And btw, just in case you weren't aware of this salient little point, we, the taxpayers, PAID for said rehab. Yes indeedy.) Because we all know that rehab for substance abuse is THE answer to ending the urge to boff underage boys and girls, Right?

(Ok, so actually the only proven cure for pedophilia is shotgun therapy. Or permanent jailtime. Because there is no effective treatment for sickos who want to DO your children. But I hate to confuse people with facts about recidivism when it seems that everyone is ever so happy to obfuscate with warm fuzzies about 28 days in a plush de-tox program. Rehab is the most POPULAR answer of 2006 - just ask all of the pedophiles who got caught last year. Actual or chemical castration are the best alternatives to death and permanent imprisonment. Certainly, chemical castration is the most humane, HOWEVER, it is extremely difficult for parole and probation officers to keep up with offenders to make certain they are compliant with their shots).

But back to Folowy. After rehab, we know he's going to want to get straight to that step in AA where you apologize to everyone you've wronged. Including any pages he victimized and their families, right? And I mean, since the offense was public, it would only stand to reason that it should be a REALLY PUBLIC apology... Oh. He DID make a statement.

Huh. Didn't really linger on any teenagers he may have wronged/harmed. What was that? Oh. He wants us to feel sorry for him because HE'S a victim? Oh, I see. Yes. Its all about him. Apparently HE was the VICTIM of molestation as a child. A Catholic priest. You don't say. What a shocker. There's a new one.

And he never really says anything else about HIS OWN victim, just how difficult it was for HIM as a child. Now, I MIGHT have cared about that had he not chosen to put other people's children through the same treatment. As it is, I could care less. And its no excuse.

Millions of children who are abused grow up to help others, not to hurt them. And millions of alcoholics ruin their livers, but they don't go into their daughter's bedroom at night, nor do they rig spy cameras in their stepdaughter's room and masturbate to peep shows of her and her friends in the buff.
Posted by sydala (10 comments )
Link Flag
I completely Agree with Volterwd
I am so sick of perps blaming their behavior on substance abuse or on being abused themselves as children. They try so hard to immediately take the spotlight off of themselves as perpetrators and off of their victims as victims, and they try to turn themselves into victims.

Foley is a classic recent example of this. He's found to have had contact or email or whathaveyou with pages that was less than appropriate (to put it nicely). So what does he do? Talk a lot about how badly he feels that he may have scarred said child/pages for life, and about his ensuing guilt over the matter? Ummm... Not so much.

He of course, goes to rehab. (And btw, just in case you weren't aware of this salient little point, we, the taxpayers, PAID for said rehab. Yes indeedy.) Because we all know that rehab for substance abuse is THE answer to ending the urge to boff underage boys and girls, Right?

(Ok, so actually the only proven cure for pedophilia is shotgun therapy. Or permanent jailtime. Because there is no effective treatment for sickos who want to DO your children. But I hate to confuse people with facts about recidivism when it seems that everyone is ever so happy to obfuscate with warm fuzzies about 28 days in a plush de-tox program. Rehab is the most POPULAR answer of 2006 - just ask all of the pedophiles who got caught last year. Actual or chemical castration are the best alternatives to death and permanent imprisonment. Certainly, chemical castration is the most humane, HOWEVER, it is extremely difficult for parole and probation officers to keep up with offenders to make certain they are compliant with their shots).

But back to Folowy. After rehab, we know he's going to want to get straight to that step in AA where you apologize to everyone you've wronged. Including any pages he victimized and their families, right? And I mean, since the offense was public, it would only stand to reason that it should be a REALLY PUBLIC apology... Oh. He DID make a statement.

Huh. Didn't really linger on any teenagers he may have wronged/harmed. What was that? Oh. He wants us to feel sorry for him because HE'S a victim? Oh, I see. Yes. Its all about him. Apparently HE was the VICTIM of molestation as a child. A Catholic priest. You don't say. What a shocker. There's a new one.

And he never really says anything else about HIS OWN victim, just how difficult it was for HIM as a child. Now, I MIGHT have cared about that had he not chosen to put other people's children through the same treatment. As it is, I could care less. And its no excuse.

Millions of children who are abused grow up to help others, not to hurt them. And millions of alcoholics ruin their livers, but they don't go into their daughter's bedroom at night, nor do they rig spy cameras in their stepdaughter's room and masturbate to peep shows of her and her friends in the buff.
Posted by sydala (10 comments )
Link Flag
So the guy is a perv ...
So the guy is a perv, what guy isn't at some level? Maybe priests? ... oh wait, never mind. Maybe Mrs. Crabtree at school? ... oh wait, she's a perv too.

There are murderers, rapists, car jackers, hard core drug dealers, robbers, wife beaters, child abusers, dead beat dads, etc. who serve far less time.

Get the guy out of jail if he is there already, put him in counseling and make him do 1000 hours of community service.
Posted by DecliningUSDollar (56 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Sounds like a good idea Clueless...and how about we have him babysit your daughter for some service. Say about 1000 hours worth.
Posted by definingmoment09 (1 comment )
Link Flag
I agree.
America is too sexually repressed. Like you said...the guy's a perv, but who isn't? The only real tragedy if you ask me is that it was his step-daughter he virtually raised. Aside from that, he's been called out, embarrassed and should do community service, not jail time. And sex offender? Get real. What an over-dramatization of what happened.
Posted by JoesTomatoe (3 comments )
Link Flag
Can we seperate "Family Issues?"
If "the family" is the building block of our society, and we treasure and protect "family values," then it seems to me any photographing of non-consenting family members should be legal.

Photographing the friends of the daughter was the crime here.
Posted by leaglebob (45 comments )
Reply Link Flag
That's your Idea
Of family values, leaglelbob? Masturbating to secretly obtained video of your teenage stepdaughter naked? You don't think that chips away at the family as the -how did you put it -"building block" of our society just a TAD?

I suppose if a husband pulls out a shotgun and blasts his wife into oblivion, that fits under the heading of "family values" as well as long as he doesn't off his neighbor's wife in the process?

Please. Give me a break.
Posted by sydala (10 comments )
Link Flag
Let him rot.
They're trying to compare the sentence for a single count of rape or murder with 14 counts video voyeurism. 14 counts of rape or murder would have landed him considerably more than 56 years.
Posted by fcekuahd (244 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Personally?
I'm not having a difficult time with the 56 year sentence at all. Too bad it was overturned. And I believe that there is a HUGE difference between Paris Hilton and Brit Spears PURPOSELY flashing the paparazzi for publicity, and this young woman being what is essentially molested via video by someone she apparently considered to be her father. All without her prior consent or knowledge.

She evidently considered it to be enough of a familial/father-daughter relationship that she chose to live with him rather than her mother after he and her mother divorced. But he apparently didn't want to have anything to do with HER once he couldn't use her and her friends as his own private porn collection. What a huge betrayal of trust, and what a raw deal in life for this young woman so far. The scumbag deserves to rot in jail for fift-six years.

Also, this article does not say if charges were pressed against him for videoing any of the other girls? Were any of those girls under 18 years of age? If none of those charges were brought, and the court is now forced to reduce his jail time, prosecutors should go back and bring charges for the offenses at this time to ensure that he gets as much time as possible.

The sick freak. Too bad the moron lives in a mobile home and almost certainly doesn't have any money. This young lady deserves the proceeds from a civil judgement, but he wouldn't have anything to pay out.
Posted by sydala (10 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I suppose you are entitled to your opinion...but allow me to simply ask...

Is the law supposed to be for revenge against criminals or to rehabilitate people and make them productive?
If we're enforcing laws simply for revenge's sake, then it is truly an angry world we live in. I would rather see someone turned around and made into a productive individual of society.
Posted by JoesTomatoe (3 comments )
Link Flag
Broken Laws ? What Laws ?
Dear Folk's Now please I'm not advocating Lawlessness and Crime ! BUT Dear Lord hold the PHONE. Sit back a moment And just Imagine in your Mind the Total Number Of Police Ossifers & there respective departments along with there State Ordered brother's that darn the Stetsons that set atop the high & tight heads of the Troopers and there respective Barracks and the Court Room's that are home plate for every town and city in there county and state that arrest & fine then Jail and then the Prisons ALL FOR YOU AND I .Do you folks realize that not to long ago there were folks that had to wait sometimes 6 months before the State Marshal rolled around to there part of the state and yet it seem's the world still went round and round Yes Or No. Now you can bet your cell phone that if you even think about speeding your pulled to the side of the road and depending on where you are you could Be asked to Remove yourself from your car without moving your hands while walking backwards on one foot only to be told to get face down in the Filth because you decided to reach down and pick up your soda or CD But if your a Well connected Neo-Con Republicon Politician who just happens to be a CEO in your off time well your on easy street because you can live a Lawlesslife without a worry in the world why you can even have your Company Bid on Government contracts that to you or I would Be a conflict of interest if We were Goverment employees and had say a Parking lot across from City hall You can almost set your watch by how long it will take before your In the Court room So Now you can Own Oil well's and sell your Oil to Government agencys at a huge mark up without a care in the world Why you can just about do whatever you want As long as you belong to a Set group of Secret Societies i.e. the Tri-Latteral Boyz Or the Bilderbergers Or those Nice Boyz that make up the Council On Foreign Relations {CFR} and the list goes on .. But if your just a Lowly Human being with a job at Stop and shop YOUR DOG FOOD ... You can't do this Or that BUT we will allow you to Bust your Back working your life to the bone Just to keep your head above water AND IF YOU HIT A JACK POT WE WANT OURS FIRST. Yes People Police Blotter Is Not for the Super Rich and shameless But rather for Mr and Mrs Low to Mid income Nobody that lives on Nothing street . Oh You say you want to drive a car OK But first you have to Pay the Insurance Man then the Tax Man Then More Tax when you go to the Gasoline Guys that By the By was already paid With money that had already been taxed and RE-Taxed Oh you can'T Pay Opps We need to keys to your Home for Tax sales. Sorry . Oh Yea folks WE have a Police Blotter Alright Only count how many Wealthy well off Snot Nosed Son's Of Millionares You count What do you honestly think They DO NO WRONG ? And If your Name Is Bush well you Got Card Blance. You can do whatever you like THEN LIE THRU YOU FACE, then make up a new story while Backing out without having to see where you have already been because It matter's Not because He has an Expert who tell's Him Don't worry AMERICAN PEOPLE CAN'T REMEMBER WHAT YOU SAID TEN MINUTES AGO ... Oh Yea America We Got BLOTTER To Bad it's NOT the Kind You see pretty things with .
Posted by Ragingdemo (9 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Commone Sense
OK... putting aside moral extremes
"Family Values above all..."
or
"She was asking for it. Give him a slap and call it a day".

There is some common sense principles at work here.
1. He invaded the privacy of a young woman. (offensive but...)
2. That young woman was raised as his daughter. (from offensive to abusive and dangerous.)
3. The young girl left (kicked out), because he wanted to continue the abuse. For the smart guy claiming that teens flash anyway - Please tak a moment... Imagine being a high school senior having that conversation with Dad.... (No shame. No remorse). Still feel the same way?

I say throw the book at him. I agree with the higher court that it must be the "Book", i.e. established sentencing, and not some special punishment because for some reason, murder is less offensive to the judge than child abuse.
Following established guidelines, he'll be in prison for the next 15 years or so. That sounds about right.
Posted by mpmacal (18 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Why is it that everyone here seems to forget that the offense took place AFTER the girl was 18? I'm sorry, there has to be a cutoff age for when someone is an adult, and once an adult, you are an ADULT. Stop referring to her as a child. Yeah, she was a YOUNG ADULT. There needs to be a distinction between sex-offenders and perverts. I can accept that he'd have to be a registered pervert. But when you say sex-offender, that implies that he's a physical threat to your safety. He's a threat to you privacy, not your safety.
God, people here are lumping this sod on the same level as a pedophile and rapist. These purists wouldn't DARE look in or at a window as they pass by for fear they might catch the tip of an areola and besmirch some poor child's modesty. Everyone! Walk with heads down and eyes on your own toes!
I'm not saying what he did was right, but I am saying that I'm grateful we have more reasonable people making and adjudicating our laws in this country and that we have a system which is able to reflect upon itself and recognize error and injustice, whether by a perpetrator or the system itself. Its not perfect, but its better then most.
I agree with one sentiment that drugs/alcohol is NOT an excuse. When you take the drugs or alcohol, you also take responsibility for what you do while under its influence. If you don't want to, don't do the drugs(alcohol, etc..). Furthermore I also agree that having bad past experiences does not justify inflicting them to others. Those experiences should lead you to help others going through the same trouble, not cause others to suffer with you.
Furthermore, it is tragic and detestable that he would do this to a girl that he virtually raised as his own. Clearly his judgment was/is impaired.
However, I believe the established guidelines are fairly set. I actually see this as a singular offense. I do not view this so much as what we would call a "Sexual Offense" (with all that social stigma attached to it) as I would label offenses such as this under a new heading "Sexual Perversion". I believe a sex offender is far worse then a pervert, in the same sense that a felony is different from a misdemeanor. In no case could I accept the overall sentence overlapping that for a capital crime such as murder or rape. Personally, I think the maximum allowable sentence should be 10 years (and not necessarily hard labor). However, I think in these cases justice would be better served with his personal public humiliation (Post his picture with his crime in detail under it all over the internet and city) and forced 1000 hours of community service.
Posted by JoesTomatoe (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
He was a voyeur "no physical contact" she was "over 18". Jail time "not really". Counseling "yes". Register as a sex offender, "get real"
Posted by lurch_and_co (3 comments )
Link Flag
 

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