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January 28, 2013

Indiana court throws out shoe-cam video arrest

INDIANAPOLIS — A court has thrown out the conviction of a Fort Wayne man who used a camera hidden in his shoe to take video images under teenage girls’ skirts at an Indianapolis shopping mall.

The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Friday that David Delagrange’s behavior didn’t violate state law regarding attempted child exploitation because the statute makes only “sexual conduct by a child” illegal and no such conduct was alleged.

Delagrange was arrested in February 2010 at Castleton Square Mall and found to have video images of a 15-year-old girl and three 17-year-olds. He did not deny that he attempted to take photographs beneath women’s skirts, court records said.

Delagrange was convicted of sexual exploitation of a child and sentenced last March to six months in prison.

Judge Melissa May wrote that under the law, the girls would have had to expose themselves to satisfy sexual desires.

“The state presented no evidence the victims exhibited their genitals or intended to satisfy anyone’,” May wrote in the 2-1 decision.

In a dissenting opinion, Judge Edward Najam Jr. said that the law governing child exploitation could not be interpreted to depend on the child’s intentions.

“Such an interpretation improperly focuses the elements of the crime on the actions of the child and undermines the very foundation of the statute, which was designed to protect children,” Najam wrote.

Jennifer A. Drobac, a professor at the Indiana University School of Law in Indianapolis, said she agreed with Najam.

“This man is walking around with cameras on his shoes. I think even to an unsophisticated observer (that) is deviate sexual behavior,” she told WISH-TV.

The Indiana attorney general’s office said in a statement that it was reviewing the appellate decision.

Delagrange was originally also charged with voyeurism. However, a court commissioner in Indianapolis dismissed those charges on the basis that voyeurism means peeping inside a dwelling, not looking up a skirt in a public place.

The Indiana General Assembly changed the state’s voyeurism law to cover such public photography. Drobac said legislators now may also have to rewrite the child exploitation law.

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