A former Davenport West science teacher has been found guilty of charges he secretly recorded videos of people in various states of undress in his Bettendorf home and destroyed evidence in connection with the case.
Scott County District Judge Meghan Corbin issued her ruling in the case against Clinton VanFossen on Dec 5.
VanFossen, 61, was charged with five counts of invasion of privacy and one count of preventing apprehension or obstructing prosecution. Each of those charges is an aggravated misdemeanor under Iowa law that carries a prison sentence of two years.
VanFossen also was found guilty of electronic or mechanical eavesdropping, a serious misdemeanor that carries a jail sentence of up to one year.
The videos were taken between Dec 26, 2019, and Jan 4, 2020, according to court records.
The case began in January of 2020, arrest affidavits show, when a computer hacker in France accessed the cameras of a home in Bettendorf and saw what he believed were people being unknowingly filmed in intimate moments.
The hacker reported what he saw, and Bettendorf Police received a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Officers located two cameras on the second floor of the home that were hidden in what appeared at first to be smoke detectors.
VanFossen was supposed to meet with Bettendorf Police Detective Sgt. Jeff Buckles on Jan 8, 2020, but failed to show.
During VanFossen’s bench trial, Buckles testified that he contacted the manufacturer of the camera and learned that it had two recording-viewing capabilities: the first was a small SD card located within the unit, and the second was a wireless stream to a computer or cell phone.
Buckles reported that a review of the SD card showed a clip of Vanfossen adjusting the camera using his cellphone in October of 2019. At approximately 4.45pm Jan 8, 2020, police arrived at the VanFossen home with a search warrant and found him at the home.
Buckles testified that VanFossen invoked his Miranda rights after Buckles informed him that he knew VanFossen had not been truthful when he previously said he was completely unaware of the cameras in the home.
Buckles and Bettendorf Police Officer Brian Peyton testified that they attempted to retrieve all electronics in the home subject to the search warrant.
Buckles reported they were not able to recover the cellphone used by VanFossen prior to Jan 8, 2020. Peyton testified that officers determined VanFossen’s original phone last pinged on his neighbour’s WiFi at approximately 11pm on Jan 7, 2020. VanFossen claimed to have misplaced his cellphone.
Officers found a receipt for a new cellphone that VanFossen purchased from Walmart at 7.08am on Jan 8, 2020, just hours after police found the cameras in his home. The newly purchased cellphone was the only cellphone officers were able to recover from VanFossen.
A former science teacher at Davenport West High School, VanFossen testified in his own defense. According to Corbin’s summary, VanFossen testified, “ad nauseum about his religious beliefs and used those beliefs to provide an explanation for the placement of the cameras.”
VanFossen also testified about his concern for his family’s safety, but Corbin said VanFossen’s testimony could not explain why the cameras were placed where they were in the home.
Corbin stated in her ruling that the “Court found Defendant to be very evasive during questioning, including when being questioned by his own attorney. Instead of answering the questions asked of him, Defendant would often cite scripture, then provide the historical background behind the scripture. During cross examination, Defendant got very defensive and at one point suggested that the real outrage was that someone hacked into his camera system and violated his privacy.”
Corbin wrote, “The Court finds that the Defendant, Clinton Vanfossen installed spy cameras in his (family member's room) with the intent to gratify or arouse his own sexual desire.
“Defendant went out of this way to delay and obstruct the investigation both by his reluctance to speak by not showing up at his scheduled interview time with police, and his outright dishonesty about not knowing the cameras existed. The Court does not believe that Defendant just happened to misplace his cell phone the same night police visited his home.”
Sentencing is scheduled for Jan 5, 2023. – Quad City Times, Davenport, Iowa/Tribune News Service