|Syracuse Athletics: It's always something, isn't it?|
As has been widely reported in the Syracuse area, SU's former media director Roger Springfield appeared this morning in Onondaga County Court to be arraigned on an indictment charging him with felony unlawful surveillance. The indictment follows a month-long investigation by Syracuse Police and the Onondaga District Attorney's Office, in response to a disclosure directly from Syracuse University upon its discovery of some videotape evidence that seemed inappropriate. As is the tradition on this blog, we'll break down what the charge means, possible outcomes of the case, and the potential fallout for the Athletic Department.
Springfield, whose real name is evidently Roger Cahak, is charged with Unlawful Surveillance in the Second Degree, which in New York is a Class E felony. The crime is relatively new, becoming law in 2003 -- in response to evolving technology and the privacy concerns that follow. There are four potential theories upon which a person could be guilty of the crime, and based on reports I've seen at this point, it's unclear which of the four Springfield faces.
One theory is that when one acts for his own (or another's) amusement, entertainment, or profit, or to abuse or degrade a person, he intentionally uses an imaging device to secretly view, record, or broadcast a person dressing or undressing or shows his intimate parts at a time or place where the person has a reasonable expectation of privacy, without the person's consent.
The next theory is when one acts for his own (or another's) sexual gratification, he intentionally uses an imaging device to secretly view, record, or broadcast a person dressing or undressing or shows his intimate parts at a time or place where the person has a reasonable expectation of privacy, without the person's consent.
The third theory is when one acts with no legitimate purpose in using an imaging device to secretly view, record or broadcast a person in a bedroom, changing room, fitting room, restroom, toilet, bathroom, washroom, shower, or any room assigned to patrons or guests in a hotel, motel, or inn, without such person's knowledge or consent.
The final theory is when one acts to use an imaging device to secretly view, record, or broadcast, under the clothing being worn by the person, the sexual or other intimate parts of a person (i.e. "upskirting").
I could pretty certainly assume that theory number four doesn't apply here. So from there, the questions we will need to deal with include what Springfield's intent was, and whether there is a reasonable expectation of privacy in a college locker room. In the case of theory three, we know the "prohibited areas" or surveillance -- they're spelled out in the statute -- and the defendant charged under that theory would have to rebut the presuption that he acted with no legitimate purpose. In those instances, surveillance for crime or theft could be a legitimate purpose depending on the circumstances and the notice given to people entering those areas.
Whether there is a reasonable expectation of privacy in a college locker room seems to be an area of focus in this case, according to a statement made by Springfield's attorney. A quick search of NY cases doesn't turn up much concerning a reasonable expectation of privacy in locker rooms, so I'm not so sure why Springfield's attorney feels so confident. The way I see it, if I'm an athlete I have -- if nothing else -- an expectation that the only people who can see me change are my teammates, and maybe my coaches. A locker room is a large changing room -- with doors, no windows to the outside, and limited access. The people in the locker room are all in the same boat -- all exposed to each other, but only to each other. If that expectation did not exist, then the locker room itself would not exist -- the football players would take their pads and jock straps off right at the 50 yard line of Ernie Davis Legends Field, while the ESPN cameras are still rolling and the crowd is filing out the revolving doors.
And, of course, that's absurd.
And so, I have a feeling that Roger Springfield doesn't have much of a case. As an E felony, he faces a maximum of 4 years in state prison; however, he could get local jail time, or even probation. Possibly more damaging, however, is the possibility that a conviction for unlawful surveillance could require Springfield to register as a sex offender under New York's Sex Offender Registration Act.
To his credit, it appears Springfield fully cooperated with the investigation, and even provided additional evidence to the authorities. I'm still trying to get my head around that. So, assuming he has no criminal history, it seems likely that he'll escape having to serve any state prison or even local jail time. His attorney could even make a motion with the Court for this to not be treated as a sex offense, if the facts and circumstances of this case and of Springfield himself would make treatment as a sex offender unduly harsh to him.
While New York does its prosecution, it seems that other jurisdictions may not get involved. There are allegations that some of the surveillance could have occurred in Florida, but Florida seems content in letting New York deal with this. The possibility still exists that the Feds could get involved.
Today was merely the first step in the criminal process. Springfield was arraigned on the felony indictment handed up by the Grand Jury; he appeared in court, was apprised of the charges against him and had his rights explained to him, and the case now moves on to discovery and motions, as well as plea bargaining discussions between Springfield's attorney and the District Attorney's Office. Best case scenario, he gets probation with no sex offender registration. I guess time will tell.
I will say this: Syracuse University seems to have done everything right in this case. As evidenced in its official press release, SU discovered the problem, immediately reported it to authorities, and fully cooperated in the investigation. It also acted quickly in suspending, and then firing, Springfield. There was no cover-up, no referral to a law firm to investigate. So, you know, we've all learned a lot from the Bernie Fine thing.