Florida Keys News - Key West Citizen
Saturday, September 7, 2013
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'Peeping Tom' wants evidence thrown out

An Old Town "peeping Tom" and former Coast Guardsman convicted in June in state court is now facing a decade in federal prison after FBI agents claimed they found pictures of naked children in sexual poses inside his BMW.

Ryan Allen Witten, 26, formerly of 620 Angela St., is moving to have those images tossed in his federal case, claiming the search was warrantless and therefore unconstitutional, according to court records.

A federal grand jury indicted Witten on July 30 on one count of possession of a visual depiction of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct.

The maximum penalty for the charge is 10 years in prison.

Witten's public defender argued that Key West police Detective Pablo Rodriguez "had no information (nor does the arrest affidavit dated Sept. 5, 2012, allege) that the police knew or reasonably believed that there was anything in the trunk or any other compartment of the defendant's car that was related to video voyeurism," according to records.

Instead, Witten argued, Rodriguez waited for Witten to "exit his residence and get into his car so he would have an excuse to pull the vehicle over and search its contents."

Federal prosecutors responded that Rodriguez had probable cause to arrest Witten. They also said that Witten gave authorities permission to search his belongings during the course of the investigation.

U.S. District Judge Jose E. Martinez on Thursday ordered that Witten's trial be held the week of Sept. 23 in Key West.

Witten was first arrested in August after Key West police received complaints about a prowler on the 700 block of Whitmarsh Lane, which runs for one block between Simonton and Elizabeth streets, connecting Angela and Petronia streets.

A special police foot-patrol arrested Witten after a chase and found cameras with more than 100 suspicious images of women, many of whom seemed unaware they were being photographed and some of whom were in various stages of undress, according to police reports.

Many of the photos looked like they had been taken through windows and fences, officers reported.

Witten was convicted June 13 on five counts of video voyeurism and one count of loitering and prowling.

The Coast Guard is in the process of discharging Witten due to his conviction, according to federal court records.

Two weeks later, Circuit Judge Mark Jones sentenced him to 60 days in the Monroe County Detention Center and three years' probation.

Evidence that would become the basis of the federal case was unearthed in September 2012 when police found a locked seabag in Witten's gray BMW.

That bag is at the center of the search debate.

The car reportedly contained an Apple laptop, an external hard drive, 95 CDs, 35 DVDs, 21 VHS tapes, a Black & Decker tool bag, a gym bag marked "Coast Guard Ryan Witten" and other assorted gear, according to a federal criminal complaint filed on June 28.

Those items were handed over to the FBI and sent to Miami to be analyzed, according to court records.

One CD allegedly contained 30 images of naked children in sexually explicit poses and performing sexual acts, according to the complaint.

"Several of the prepubescent minors were clearly under the age of 12," the FBI agent wrote in the complaint.

There was no evidence in the complaint that any of the minors depicted were local and no allegation in the complaint that Witten recorded local children.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Lurana S. Snow ruled in July that Witten be detained without bail, deeming him a flight risk.

alinhardt@keysnews.com

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