Public Safety

Iowa City architect takes plea deal for secretly videotaping employee pumping breast milk

Robert Carlson
Robert Carlson

IOWA CITY — An Iowa City architect pleaded guilty Tuesday to nine of the 22 counts he faced for secretly videotaping an employee pumping breast milk in what she thought was a private conference room.

The trial for Robert Carlson, 68, was set to begin Tuesday in Johnson County Associate District Court. But he filed a written plea, taking the second deal that was offered by prosecutors.

Carlson pleaded to nine counts of invasion of privacy — aggravated misdemeanors with penalties of up to two years in prison each for a total of 18 years.

Assistant Johnson County Attorney Rachel Zimmermann Smith will ask the sentencing judge to run three of the counts consecutively and the remaining six counts concurrently to the three, for a total of up to six years in prison, as part of the plea agreement. The remaining counts would be dismissed.

Carlson plans to ask for a deferred judgment, according to the plea document.

He must register as a sex offender for 10 years and be sentenced to a special sentence of parole for 10 years because this is sexual offense — unless he is granted the deferred judgment, the plea shows. Carlson also will be required to complete any recommended sex offender treatment while in prison and a no-contact order will be in place for five years to protect the employee.

Zimmermann Smith said she discussed the plea with the victim, Jessica Clark, and she will have the opportunity to submit a victim impact statement at sentencing.

Carlson is accused of viewing and videotaping the employee’s exposed breasts while pumping breast milk, so evidence of adult pornography and research on voyeurism and hidden cameras found on his computer was going to be allowed at trial, 6th Judicial Associate District Judge Deb Minot ruled earlier this month.


“The female victim did not consent to these recordings and had a reasonable expectation of privacy while in the room pumping breast milk,” according to the criminal complaint.

Clark sued Carlson and the Carlson Design Team in May 2018, alleging sexual harassment, sex discrimination, invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The suit has been settled, but there are no details in public court records.

Clark found the recording device Dec. 18, 2018, in the architectural firm’s conference room.

Police obtained a search warrant for the firm’s office and Carlson’s house. Police said they seized electronic devices as part of their search. Those devices contained 22 videos of incidents where Clark was pumping breast milk, police said.

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