Judge jails shoe camera peeper for 2 years
A Grand Junction man who prosecutors said stalked random women at a grocery store and used a camera mounted on his shoe to surreptitiously film up their skirts, or while they used the toilet, was sentenced Monday to serve two years in the Mesa County Jail.
Joshua Cheyenne Vohs, 34, who was described by his own attorney as a “high-tech Peeping Tom,” received the maximum sentence available to a visibly angry Mesa County Court Judge Craig Henderson, who suggested a state prison sentence would have been more appropriate had the option been there.
“Short of actual penetration, this was a sexual assault,” Henderson said, calling the case among the most “vile and reprehensible” matters he’s presided over. The judge said he regretted he couldn’t order lifetime sex-offender supervision because of the non-felony plea in Vohs’ case.
“My strong suspicion is this wasn’t the first time he’s done this,” Henderson said.
The two-year sentence was the maximum term available to Henderson under a plea agreement. Vohs pleaded guilty earlier this year to a lone misdemeanor count of unlawful sexual contact.
“In my years as a prosecutor, I’ve never seen a case quite like this,” Chief Deputy District Attorney Trish Mahre told the judge.
Vohs was arrested July 24, 2011, by Grand Junction police as he tried to leave City Market, 200 Rood Ave., after security reported a man acting suspiciously. He was later issued a summons and released.
In a 14-minute surveillance video from the store, Vohs is seen following random women around before approaching them from behind and extending his foot under their dresses or skirts, according to Mahre.
A digital memory card found in a camera had 11 videos, showing private parts or undergarments, in what Mahre described as a “pretty sophisticated set-up.” Complete with a battery pack in his pants, Vohs ran a wire taped to his leg to a camera lens mounted on top of his shoe.
“He had to take off his pants for the officers to get this evidence,” Mahre told the judge.
One of the videos show a woman urinating in a Porta Potty, the prosecutor said.
Most of the videos were mere seconds long.
Just one victim on the videos was identified, she said. The judge said he did not personally review the evidence, explaining, “I refuse to victimize these women again.”
The lone identified victim in the case expressed concern the videos might have been uploaded to the Internet.
“What does he do with this information?” the woman asked. “I find it hard to believe someone so tech savvy doesn’t get on the Internet at all.”
Lives with mother
Prosecutors suggested Vohs didn’t have time to upload the material online, noting the camera’s memory card was seized by police shortly after his arrest in the City Market parking lot. Officers also found less than an ounce of marijuana in his possession.
Stephen Laiche, Vohs’ attorney, told the judge Vohs has not had Internet access at his home for the past two years and said police, to-date, have not searched his home computer. Vohs, who lived at 465 Orchard Ave. at the time of his arrest, resides with his mother, he said.
Laiche appealed to Henderson to impose a probation sentence, which would have allowed Vohs to continue in a local sex-offender treatment program he voluntarily enrolled in last September. Laiche said Vohs’ employer, Carville’s Auto Mart, was aware of the facts outlined in Vohs’ case.
A psychosexual evaluation found Vohs was amenable to treatment and moderate risk to re-offend.
Henderson cited Vohs’ prior arrest and conviction — a 2006 case in Crested Butte involving nearly identical circumstances — in rejecting probation. Vohs pleaded to a reduced crime, misdemeanor attempted invasion of privacy, and was sentenced to one year unsupervised probation after his arrest in January 2006 at a bar in Crested Butte.
An employee at The Eldo Brewery & Taproom phoned police after Vohs approached women, and he was later found with a similar video recording device strapped with duct tape on his foot, according to Mahre.
Vohs explained he was trying to film from a dog’s perspective while fishing, the prosecutor said.
“I find that laughable,” Henderson said Monday, who described the 2006 incident as a “dry-run” for the crimes in Grand Junction six years later.
Prosecutors said Vohs was unable to successfully record anything during the Crested Butte episode.
Vohs apologized to his victims and asked the judge for freedom to continue to “work on myself” through sex offender treatment. Vohs denied ever uploading the material to the Internet, but also never articulated reasons for the filming. He acknowledged exposure in the past to pornography, which, he said, was among reasons his home had no Internet service.
“I hope to do everything I can to become a forgivable person,” he said.
The lone woman victim who spoke during Monday’s hearing gave Vohs a copy of a book, “The Purpose Driven Life,” a bestseller by Rick Warren, but also noted she was returning from church for a quick shopping trip at City Market in July 2011 when she was victimized.
She appealed to the judge for some sort of jail sentence.
“Somebody from our church would visit him every Sunday,” she said.