Convicted Peeping Tom Sues City, Wants Porn Collection Back

According to U.S. law, there’s nothing wrong with owning a little porn-so why are San Rafael officials withholding one man’s extensive collection? Dennis Saunders, 59, is suing the city of San Rafael for the return of his pornography videos and magazines, which were seized when he was arrested in 2001. Sentenced to eight years, he was released for good behavior after about five. His 44 misdemeanor counts include a “Peeping Tom” conviction for videotaping a 45-year-old woman and a 17-year-old girl in their homes.

The pornographic materials in question do not include the illegally-obtained Peeping Tom videos, prompting attorneys to argue that there is no reason to deny Saunders the use of goods he could buy from any “corner store,” reports ABC news. Indeed, one California criminal defense attorney insists that the items in the collection are neither illegal nor contraband nor evidence, and therefore should be returned to Saunders.

San Rafael officials have been given until October 30 to determine whether or not they will return the pornography, but if they don’t, Saunders is willing to go to court. Bizarre as his case sounds, there is reason to believe Saunders’ collection – whose worth has been estimated as high $10,000 to $25,000 – will be returned. Various sources cite criminal attorneys who point out that, if anything, returning Saunders’ pornography will prevent him from acting on his voyeuristic impulses in the future.

This case is especially interesting when considered alongside that of Genarlow Wilson, the 17-year-old who was sentenced to 10 years in prison after the release of a home video of him engaging in consensual oral sex with a 15-year-old girl. Though Wilson was ultimately released after two years, the severity of his punishment may seem disproportionate when compared to Saunders’.

Wilson, who was at a New Year’s Eve party when the video in question was recorded, is certainly a more sympathetic figure to the public eye. His is the type of crime easily written off as a youthful indiscretion or a careless mistake. His conviction rested on the fact that the girl was underage. Ironically, the tape was released to the public only by the prosecuting attorney’s office, pursuant to Freedom of Information Act requests. In other words, the circumstances surrounding his imprisonment can be viewed as especially unlucky for all concerned.

Saunders, though, at 59, falls more readily in the stereotypical role of sex offender. But he does have a point. Perhaps the wisdom of the years has not, after all, been wasted on Saunders – he certainly seems to understand (or have a criminal lawyer who understands) his rights.