Police are calling the recent arrest of a peeping Tom at a Mesa fitness center a “test case” of a new state voyeurism statute. Last year, legislation made voyeurism a crime and defined the offense as viewing or recording someone without his or her knowledge for the purpose of sexual stimulation.
On May 15, Mesa police officers arrested 22-year-old Francisco Salgado Martinez on suspicion of breaking into the ceiling of a local LA Fitness gym where he worked and, as he peered past partially removed ceiling tiles, fondling himself while he watched women change clothes. One woman also said he stole her cell phone, which police said they found at his west Mesa home.
Three days after his arrest, prosecutors pressed charges against Martinez in Maricopa County Superior Court. Those included two counts of burglary, one count of theft and one count of voyeurism.
As a felony, voyeurism is punishable by prison time. For a first offense, the maximum sentence is two years, according to the Arizona Supreme Court’s sentencing guidelines.
Sen. Jim Waring, R-Phoenix, said he sponsored the Senate bill last year because he saw the behavior as a “precursor for more serious crimes in the future,” according to the legislative record.
Rachel Mitchell, bureau chief of the Sex Crimes Division at the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, testified before the House Judiciary Committee last year that voyeurism often precedes more violent sexual crimes like rape.
Secret photographing, videotaping, filming, recording and viewing were already criminal when the voyeurism legislation passed. The outlawed behavior included watching people perform bodily functions, have sex or undress. The law also forbade publishing and distributing such recordings.
But the word “voyeurism” hadn’t previously been used or defined, and the motive of sexual stimulation was not included in the existing statute.
Although Martinez’ case describes the typical concept of a voyeur — a person who habitually peeps for the purpose of viewing sex or people disrobing — lawmakers nationwide have become increasingly concerned about the voyeurism aided by new technology, such as camera phones.
Arizona’s newly worded statute helped close a loophole in the existing law, which did not ban “up-skirt” photographs taken in public areas where there was no reasonable expectation of privacy. Now, the law applies to people who can reasonably expect not to be viewed or recorded, no matter their location.
Martinez, formerly a janitor at LA Fitness, 1905 S. Signal Butte Road, will appear again before Judge David Talamante on July 9. Martinez is pleading not guilty. Although Martinez initially told police he has been living in the country illegally, Talamante set bond for him at $15,000, according to court records. A county attorney’s office news release, however, said he was being held without bail. Police records showed that Martinez’ wife also worked at the fitness center, where he had worked for six months.