September 2, 2004

Landlord Pleads Not Guilty to 10 Charges

Print More

David A. Church, the landlord accused of installing secret cameras in several students’ apartments, pled not guilty to 10 charges of unlawful surveillance in the second degree at his arraignment yesterday morning. He had previously confessed to the charges to the police.

Church was issued a Release Under Supervision of Probation (RUS), meaning that he will not be held while the case is pending but must check in with the Tompkins County Probation and Community Justice Department periodically. The probation department would not release the specific terms of the RUS. Church was also issued an Order of Protection, meaning that he must stay away from the victims and property involved in the alleged crime, explained Jim Jecen, acting chief clerk of the Ithaca city court.

An arraignment is essentially a hearing at which the defendant is read the charges, pleads guilty or not guilty and is informed whether he or she will be released and if bail is required.

Church did not speak himself, but was represented by his attorney, James A. Baker J.D. ’80.

The Ithaca city court, which held the arraignment, will now transfer the case to Tompkins County’s courts. City courts are the lowest level of courts and cannot handle felony charges.

The Honorable Judith A. Rossiter J.D. ’86, who presided over the arraignment, set a deadline for six months, but Jecen said that this is only an administrative deadline for the city court. Unless the county transfers the case back to the city, this deadline, which does not affect the county’s handling of the case, will be irrelevant.

Jecen said that he could not be certain of the case’s timeline, but he suspected that if there is a grand jury hearing in the county court, it will be within an order of magnitude of a few weeks. Many criminal cases are settled in plea bargains, which could change the procedures and timeline for the case. A grand jury, for instance, might never need to meet at all.

The district attorney’s office would not comment on the case’s timeline, what sentencing they will pursue, or whether they are engaging in plea bargains with Church. Church and Baker also declined to comment. A spokesperson for the D.A. did confirm, however, that Church could potentially serve sentences for the 10 charges consecutively, meaning that he faces a maximum of 10 to 40 years in prison.

At the arraignment, Church was notified of five new counts of the charge in addition to five he had received before. Police Chief Signer said that the investigation is continuing. “As we uncover more evidence, we make sure we know as much as we can about where he had access,” she said.

Church was arrested on Wednesday, Aug. 25 after a resident at 404 University Ave. discovered a surveillance camera in her bathroom. Cameras were found in that apartment and at 108 East Yates St. The University Avenue camera was found drilled into the bathroom wall there, while the East Yates address had a camera hidden in an AM/FM radio that Church had placed in the bathroom. In all, 10 students lived in the two apartments.

Police have also searched 301 College Ave., where Church did contracting work in 1990, and 513 N. Cayuga St., which is owned by an acquaintance of Church’s. No cameras were found at either site.

Archived article by uval Shavit
Sun Staff Writer