Ann Arbor pediatrician seeks dismissal of two window peeping charges
An Ann Arbor pediatrician accused of watching out his bathroom window as a 12-year-old neighbor changed her clothing in a bedroom closet is asking the court to dismiss two of six criminal charges against him.
Dr. Howard Weinblatt, 65, is charged with four counts of surveilling an unclothed person and two counts of window peeping.
In a motion filed last week, Attorney Laurence Margolis asked the court to dismiss the two misdemeanor window peeping counts against Weinblatt. In short, the motion says the law in Michigan is clear that one cannot be a "peeping Tom" from the confines of his own home.
Judge Kirk Tabbey reviewed the motion Tuesday, court records show, but has not yet scheduled a hearing on it. Washtenaw County Chief Deputy Assistant Prosecutor Steve Hiller declined comment Thursday, saying he hasn’t seen the motion. Attorney Thomas O’Brien, who is now representing Weinblatt, declined comment.
Weinblatt is accused of watching out his bathroom window on four occasions between Oct. 18 and Oct. 31 while the 12-year-old changed her clothing in her walk-in bedroom closet. According to a criminal complaint, Weinblatt's alleged conduct occurred under circumstances where the girl had a "reasonable expectation of privacy."
Ann Arbor police Detective Amy Ellinger testified at Weinblatt’s Nov. 23 arraignment that on one of the four occasions, the girl’s mother left an iPad out and recorded a video. Upon reviewing the video, the mother "observed what in her opinion was Dr. Weinblatt not only looking out the window at her daughter when she was changing her clothes, but also masturbating at the time," Ellinger testified. Ellinger also testified that the 12-year-old has been a patient of Weinblatt's since she was born.
According to the motion to dismiss that was filed Dec. 8, prosecutors have not alleged that Weinblatt left his Olivia Avenue home, so there was no probable cause to charge him with window peeping.
"It is alleged that defendant was 'inappropriately looking' out his own residence’s second floor bathroom window, and into the home of an immediately adjacent neighbor, 11 feet away, while a minor was ‘changing for school," the motion says. "It is alleged that defendant was therefore a 'peeping Tom.' There are no allegations of any sort that defendant ever left the confines of his own home to allegedly commit this offense."
To show one cannot be a peeping Tom from the confines of his own home, the motion cites the 1897 case City of Grand Rapids v Williams. In that case, records say, a man was convicted of window peeping after leaving a public sidewalk and approaching a window of a house. Six feet from the sidewalk, the man leaned on a window sill, records show, and peered into the window of a room where people were present, for about two minutes. The room was lighted and the window shade was six to 12 inches above the window sill.
Records say that after testimony in the man's trial, the judge instructed the jury: "It is no offense for a person walking along on the sidewalk, and without trespassing upon the premises of another, to look through an uncurtained window or a window partially covered with a curtain. But if a person steps off the sidewalk, not at the usual approaches or walks to a house, and for no legitimate purpose, and without the consent and against the will of the owner, in such case he may be a trespasser and wrongdoer; and if, after so trespassing, he proceeds to a window with a curtain raised from five to twelve inches, and leans upon the window sill, and with no legitimate purpose in so doing, such peeking in at such window so shaded by curtains at 11 or 12 o'clock at night may, in law, be said to be peeking into the window."
Records say because the man stepped off the sidewalk and trespassed on private property, he was found guilty of the violation as described by the court's instructions to the jury. On appeal, records show the Michigan Supreme Court found that the jury's verdict was justified by the evidence and the judgment was affirmed.
The motion also says an Ann Arbor city ordinance requires trespassing on the victim's private property as a "requisite element" of the charge of being a window peeper. Under the ordinance, no person shall "knowingly go upon property owned or leased by another and peep through the window of a building on that property at any person without the express or implied consent of that person."
It is "crystal clear that in Michigan, to be charged with the above window peeping offense, a person must have at least ventured onto private property," the motion says. Window peeping is punishable upon conviction by up to 90 days in jail.
So far, no motions have been filed challenging the more serious felony counts of surveilling an unclothed person. Surveilling an unclothed person is punishable upon conviction by up to two years in prison.
Weinblatt has been on leave from IHA Child Health - Ann Arbor, where he has worked for years. State licensing officials have said he can continue to practice while the case is pending. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Jan. 12.
Initial story on this case: Veteran Ann Arbor pediatrician accused of window peeping
Lee Higgins covers crime and courts for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached by phone at (734) 623-2527 and email at firstname.lastname@example.org.