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Mark Stodghill, Forum Communications, Published October 13 2012

Minnesota photographer accused of watching girl dress for photos

EVELETH, Minn. – The owner of a photography studio here has been summoned to appear in court after being accused of looking through a peep hole into a dressing room where two girls were changing clothes, but the man’s attorney said the businessman denies doing anything wrong.

Donald Louis Peterson, 55, of Gilbert, is charged with two counts of interference with privacy against a minor under 18 years old, a felony offense.

On Aug. 31, a police officer in Eveleth, a city of about 3,700 people 60 miles north of Duluth, was flagged down by a juvenile boy. The boy reported that his girlfriend was getting graduation photos taken at Thomas Leonard Studio in Eveleth, and he saw Peterson looking through a hole in the wall while she was in the dressing room.

The officer requested that the boy give a recorded statement with his mother present at a later date. In that statement, the boy said that he saw Peterson lying on top of a shelf in the back storage room looking into the dressing room through a space in the wall.

The boy said that he crawled up a ladder in the back storage room and saw a “peephole” in the wall, which looked into the dressing room area.

Two Eveleth police officers went to the studio on Sept. 4 and talked to Peterson, who showed them the dressing room and storage room. An officer spotted a piece of wood closing an approximate two-inch gap in the non-flush wall, about 7 feet off the ground.

Photographs were taken of the room. One of the girls told officers that she could hear Peterson moving things around behind the dressing room while she was changing clothes.

“My client fully cooperated with law enforcement and signed a voluntary consent allowing the Eveleth Police Department to search his entire studio, and they did so twice,” Williams said, and added that the court granted a third search of the business.

“My client gave a voluntary 50-minute statement to (Eveleth police) on Sept. 5. Basically, he denied the allegations and insisted that he had not done anything wrong,” Williams said. “Obviously, he’s been a very trusted member of the community and he’s got a very good business reputation. With something like this, even if a person is eventually found innocent, the allegations themselves can bring a negative business impact.”

Peterson has been summoned to make his first court appearance on Nov. 2.

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