Mass. Supreme Judicial Court: 'Upskirt' photos in public not illegal

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March 5, 2014, 3:31 pm
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(NECN: Kathryn Sotnik) - Michael Robertson of Andover, Mass. is off the hook for allegedly taking cell phone photos up the skirts of women riding the MBTA Green Line.

"He was holding his cell phone down here," demonstrated Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley.

Conley called a news conference Wednesday to talk about why Robertson is off the hook.

It all boils down to this: The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that while they think "upskirting" should be illegal, it isn't because of the way state law is written. The court ruled that what Robertson allegedly did did not violate state law because the women weren't "nude or partially nude."

Robertson was arrested back in 2010 by MBTA Transit Police when they set up a sting after getting reports that Robertson was allegedly using his cell phone to take photos and video up riders skirts and dresses.

Currently, "Peeping Tom" laws protect people from being photographed in dressing rooms and bathrooms. However, the way the law is written does not protect clothed people in public areas, the court said.

To clarify even more, the court said, "A female passenger on a MBTA trolley who is wearing a skirt, dress, or the like covering these parts of her body is not a person who is 'partially nude,' no matter what is or is not underneath the skirt by way of underwear or other clothing."

Conley said, "Of course you're disappointed that there's no statute on the books that we can use to prosecute Mr. Robertson. Again, his conduct was repulsive."

Still, riders are not happy with the ruling.

"Wouldn't that be a violation of my privacy? Or I feel like there would be so many laws broken," said one MBTA rider.

Another said, "The legislature should definitely re-write the bill so it should be enforced. We cannot encourage this type of behavior on the T, I ride the T everyday it's not proper."

House Speaker Robert DeLeo said in a statement that lawmakers are working on a way to clarify the law.

Senate President Therese Murray also said she was "stunned and disappointed with the court ruling," and that the Senate will respond quickly.

A phone call to Robertson's attorney, Michelle Menken, Wednesday night was not returned. Robertson was never convicted of any crime, as the Supreme Judicial Court overruled a lower court that upheld charges against him.

The District Attorney's office is also stressing that "upskirting" is becoming more and more prevalent, with people even using cameras on their shoes, canes, and umbrellas. 

Tags: Boston, massachusetts, MBTA, Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, mbta police, upskirting, Michael Robertson
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