DEER LODGE - The attorney for a group of high school athletes who believe they may have been secretly videotaped in locker rooms here wants a judge to order investigators to let attorneys review the confiscated videotapes.
Mark Jones of Missoula argues that allowing attorneys involved in a federal lawsuit access to the tapes could help identify all the female athletes whose privacy rights may have been violated. He said the tapes also could show if additional suspects were involved in the taping, and could help answer questions about how the students were able to set up the equipment and film female athletes over a 2 1/2-year period.
"On behalf of my clients, I think we need to have access to the tapes in some controlled environment," Jones told District Judge Donald Molloy during a court hearing last week.
In December 2002, three Powell County High School seniors pleaded guilty to charges involving the installation of two-way mirrors in the girls' and boys' locker rooms that permitted them to observe and videotape female athletes as they undressed. Officials say athletes from as many as 18 Montana schools who were at Powell County High School for games and tournaments may appear on the videos.
Parents of students believed to be on the videos have filed two separate lawsuits against the school district and others, including one in U.S. District Court that charges the athletes' privacy rights were violated.
But access to the seized videotapes has been tightly controlled. Officials set up a panel of investigators and school administrators to review the tapes in the pending state District Court lawsuit in an effort to identify all the athletes.
Jones said he does not trust that method.
"It's kind of like having the fox in charge of the chicken coop," he told Molloy Friday.
School attorneys said they don't directly oppose a review of the tapes, but say the procedure established last year to handle the lawsuit in District Court is sufficient.
"You've got to balance some interests here; balance some practicalities," attorney Larry Daly told Molloy.
In an interview Monday with the Montana Standard of Butte, Daly said he believes the review process already in place should be adequate for both pending lawsuits.
"Assuming that process made some sense, then there's no sense in repeating it," Daly said. "That process should be good enough."