Student tenants describe betrayal at allegations Iowa City landlord peeped on them

Miller charged with invasion of privacy in numerous incidents

A hole leading up into the bathroom of 1024 E Burlington st. in Iowa City, where tenants are accusing their landlord, El
A hole leading up into the bathroom of 1024 E Burlington st. in Iowa City, where tenants are accusing their landlord, Elwyn Gene Miller, of using to peep at women tenants in the bathroom of his Iowa City apartment. (Kyle Grillot/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY – An Iowa City landlord admitted to police that he spied on at least four female tenants through peepholes he installed in their bathrooms, according to prosecutors.

District Associate Court Judge Stephen Gerard heard the case Tuesday against Elwyn G. Miller, 64, charged with 11 counts of invasion of privacy involving nudity based on allegations he spied on tenants from Aug. 1 to Oct. 31, 2012.

“I feel more violated because I trusted our landlord,” said Saba Hafeez, one of eight current or former University of Iowa students who testified against Miller Tuesday.

Hafeez and her boyfriend, Tyson Sanchez, were living on the top floor of 639 S. Lucas St. in fall 2012.

Their neighbor, Linsie Mairet, called 911 on Oct. 31, 2012, when she heard movement in the ceiling while she was showering, she testified. Cotton balls she had stuck into a hole by her ceiling exhaust fan were gone. Mairet hopped out of the shower, threw on some clothes and looked out out into the apartment hallway, where she saw Miller coming down the ladder to the attic.

Iowa City Police Detective Andrew Rich went into the attic and found four identical holes into top-floor bathrooms, he testified. Rich could see paths in the attic insulation leading from the attic entrance to the holes.

Rich and Officer Kevin Bailey later questioned Miller about the holes. Hafeez overheard the conversation in the apartment hallway.

“They asked him if he had seen each of the girl tenants in the top floor shower,” Hafeez said. “He said yes to each of them. I heard him admit to seeing me in the shower before.”

Miller’s attorney, Mark Brown, did not call any witnesses and declined a closing argument. But he asked Gerard to dismiss the charges against his client, saying Assistant Johnson County Attorney Anne Lahey failed to prove several elements of the invasion of privacy case.

“After hearing roughly 10 witnesses, we believe there is not one witness that came into this courtroom with any first-hand observation or knowledge of arousal of this defendant,” Brown said.

He said Lahey must prove not only that Miller looked through the holes, but that the alleged victims were at least partially nude and that Miller did it for sexual gratification.

Lahey said Miller’s interview with police, submitted to the court on DVD, proves the arousal. “On that tape, he says he likes to look at women, young women,” Lahey said. “He saw an opportunity and took it.”

Brown also grilled several witnesses about civil lawsuits they’ve filed against Miller.

“Why would you sue the defendant?” Brown asked Ruth Lapointe, who also lived on the top level of 639 S. Lucas St.

“I wanted something from him and that something has to be money,” Lapointe said.

Her father, Joseph Lapointe, a Mason City attorney, has filed a lawsuit against Miller on behalf of his daughter and two other alleged victims. A second lawsuit was filed by Jane Doe. The Lapointe trial is set for October 2014.

Miller waived his right to a jury trial Monday, so the case will be decided by Gerard. The judge accepted the evidence, including about 50 photographs and court precedents provided by Brown. Gerard did not say when he would rule on the case.Invasion of privacy is a serious misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of $1,500.

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