MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A man convicted for looking into people’s windows will stay behind bars while he waits for a possible trial on another peeping charge.
St. Paul Police say they caught 44-year-old John Searle peeping in several windows near the St. Thomas University campus last week.
Police say they caught Searle peeping and using a recording device with video of a woman changing clothes.
One of Searle’s alleged victims got a picture of the license plate that helped police track Searle.
On Monday a Ramsey County judge ordered Searle stay in jail until his next court date on Oct.5.
Searle is being held on $100,000 bail.
Searle was first convicted 20 years ago for peeping. His victims say he has haunted their Merriam Park neighborhood, and they’re sick of it.
Emma Button, 21, thought when she helped St. Paul police catch the man they say was peeping in her neighborhood last week, it would be the end of this behavior.
“It is just disgusting — there’s no other word for it,” Button said.
Button had no idea Searle has already had five felony convictions for stalking and harassment.
Criminal defense attorney Joe Tamburino (who is not representing Searle) said the maximum sentence for peeping is the same no matter how many times a person re-offends.
“What this person is doing, allegedly, is committing invasion of privacy-type offenses, for which the statutory maximum sentence is two years,” Tamburino said. “So, technically, he could go do this, get convicted of a felony, do his two years in prison, come out and do it again.”
Tamburino said lawmakers would need to change state law to up that maximum sentence.
“I hope that he changes, so whatever it would take for this behavior to stop,” Button said, “whether that means he’s in prison or he receives some intensive help.”
Button’s words echo the words of college women WCCO interviewed back in 2004, who also said they believed Searle was targeting them.
Tamburino said a judge may order an offender into a treatment program, but that would mean the the convicted offender would not go to prison.
Tamburino said invasion of privacy laws carry shorter sentences, because the offense does not include any physical injury like in a physical assault or sex crime.
“It’s just simply that he is looking in windows,” Tamburino said. “That is inexcusable and should be punished, but he’s picking an area of the law where penalties just aren’t that great.”
Tamburino said if Searle is convicted, he doubts the court would rule for a treatment program considering his past convictions.
Tamburino suggested victims get no-contact orders against Searle. He was served with one in court on Monday from one of the many homes police say he targeted.
Ramsey County Attorney John Choi released a statement regarding Searle:
“This is a case that scares us all given the nature of the allegations and I am relieved that we were able to arrest and charge the defendant today. I want to credit the police officers in the Western District of the Saint Paul Police Department who diligently pursued this case with special vigor. Through their hard work, we were able to obtain sufficient evidence to charge the defendant today. We will aggressively pursue justice in this case and seek to protect the neighborhood from this type of behavior.”