Monday, October 22 , 2018, 9:36 pm | Fair 61º


Carpinteria Man Accused of Planting Hidden Camera to Enter Plea in January

Judge rules suspect Donald Lee Bedford must answer to a felony charge, as well as a misdemeanor, in the case

A judge ruled Friday that a felony charge, as well as a misdemeanor, were appropriate in the case of a Carpinteria man accused of eavesdropping on his girlfriend’s daughter via a hidden camera in her bedroom.

Donald Lee Bedford
Donald Lee Bedford

Donald Lee Bedford, 55, was arrested in July after the 30-year-old woman discovered a camera hidden inside a book on a bookshelf in her room. He has been charged with one count of felony eavesdropping and a count of unlawful electronic peeping, which is a misdemeanor.

Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Cliff Anderson ruled Friday that Bedford will have to answer to the felony charge, and denied his defense’s motion to reduce it to a misdemeanor. Bedford is expected to enter a plea at his Jan. 7 arraignment.

Bedford appeared in court and out of custody Thursday and Friday, and the prosecution and defense wrapped up their arguments in the preliminary hearing. The camera footage was the centerpiece of the court discussion.

Although the courtroom wasn’t allowed to see portions of the tape, it apparently reveals the victim and her boyfriend disrobing and watching television together in her bedroom. The beginning of the tape shows Bedford tinkering with the camera, flashing up to his face.

The courtroom wasn’t allowed to watch the next part of the tape either, but the audio was kept on for the public to hear. The noise of the room’s television is prominent, although several conversations between the couple can be heard.

After the camera was discovered by the woman, Bedford went to the victim’s mother and told her what he had done, according to a sheriff’s detective. He told her he had planted the camera to listen to her daughter’s financial situation, but the mother thought Bedford had planted the camera for a sexual purpose.

The presence of audio makes a crime a felony if confidential communications are captured, and defense attorney William Makler argued Friday that Bedford had no actual intent of listening to anything from the room. He called the camera “an incompetent listening device.” Because of the noise of the television and the placement of the recorder inside the book, Makler said it was “a stretch” that Bedford could have used the device to listen to confidential communications.

“I don’t think this amounts to eavesdropping” because of intent, Makler told Anderson. He called Bedford’s actions “shocking and outrageous,” but that his actions constituted minimal eavesdropping at best.

Prosecutor Ali Neuffer disagreed. She argued that Bedford was in a special position of trust to the victim, had a key to the home and had been dating her mother for years. She also brought up Bedford’s criminal background. According to Neuffer, Bedford was arrested last year for domestic violence against the victim’s mother, and was caught prowling in 2006. Another domestic violence charge also exists from 2004 involving Bedford and the woman.

Neuffer said Makler’s statements about the audio “fly in the face of invasion of privacy law.” Even though most of the audio exchanged between the victim and her boyfriend is inaudible, “it doesn’t make her less of a victim,” Neuffer said.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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