Naknek man charged with putting wireless camera in pool locker room

Posted: Friday, January 18, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- A Naknek man has been charged with indecent viewing for installing a wireless video camera in the girls locker room at the village swimming pool, Bristol Bay Borough officials said Thursday.

John Knutsen, 58, a volunteer lifeguard, was detained Monday and released Tuesday on $2,000 bail.

Police say a worker at the pool spotted the video camera Saturday. George Castaneda, borough manager, said the camera appears to have been discovered the same day it was installed.

The camera, which Castaneda described as pencil-sized, was ''just laying there in plain sight on top of a towel dispenser'' in the girls locker room. The camera transmitted to a VCR hidden in the ceiling.

Castaneda said police are asking the school principal to view the tape so she can help identify girls on it. Their parents will be informed, he said.

''We'll do everything to make sure it doesn't happen again,'' Castaneda said.

Knutsen, who ran for borough mayor last year, is now barred from the pool and his key has been taken away, Castaneda said. The borough now plans to screen the backgrounds of pool volunteers.

''It's difficult because these people have lived here all their lives, including Mr. Knutsen, and he's well-known in the community,'' he said.

Knutsen's only Alaska criminal conviction was in 1990 for a fish and wildlife violation, according to a database of state court records.

In a phone interview with the Anchorage Daily News Thursday, Knutsen said it was the first time he's done anything like this.

''It was definitely a mistake. There's no question,'' he said. ''You must understand how remorseful I am.''

Knutsen, who faces a February trial on the felony charge, said he set up the camera in the locker room on Saturday.

''The only other comment I want to make is that I did not view the video,'' he said.

Gina Platt, a Naknek resident who uses the pool in the village of 678 people almost daily, said it's going to be uncomfortable to change in the locker room now. Platt said she was surprised to hear of Knutsen's arrest. She described him as ''a friendly guy. They call him Smiley' because he's always smiling.''

Alaska's Legislature passed the indecent viewing law in 1995 after a school maintenance man in Klawock was caught videotaping the girls locker room. John P. Smith was convicted of vandalism and theft because he damaged the locker room wall to install the camera, which he took from the school. Prosecutors couldn't charge him with peeping, however, because the state lacked such a law then.



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