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[November 28, 2012]
School custodian held for secret videos of students, teachers
Nov 28, 2012 (The Philadelphia Inquirer - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- The chief custodian at Gloucester Catholic High School was arrested Wednesday and charged with secretly videotaping students and teachers at the school, sometimes catching them in various states of undress, officials said.
John Martin, 41, of Wenonah, allegedly installed the small, quarter-inch-diameter cameras in eight rooms, including the choir room, weight room, backstage area, maintenance facilities, and football area.
"Students used some of those rooms as changing areas and some of the images show nudity," Camden County Prosecutor Warren W. Faulk and Gloucester City Police Chief George Berglund said in a joint statement.
Most of the victims were female, the statement said.
Martin, who surrendered Wednesday, was charged with one count of third-degree invasion of privacy. He was released on his own recognizance on the condition he not go near the high school or any students or staff. Martin resigned from his job last week.
Besides being chief custodian, Martin, an 18-year employee of the Gloucester City school, was in charge of its video surveillance system, officials said.
The cameras were hidden in such locations as ventilation ducts and smoke detectors and linked to the school's existing video security system, according to the statement.
"Martin is accused of possessing hours of video footage and a large cache of pictures which appear to be screen shots taken with his cellphone from the video," the statement said. "Most of the images and recordings are of females, both students and teachers." Investigators and school officials are reviewing the video to identify the people in them. Anyone identified will be notified by law enforcement.
Officials said Martin shared pictures with at least two other people.
Authorities said they are still trying to determine how long the secret recording went on, and Martin could face additional charges.
"The Prosecutor's Office has no indication Martin distributed these videos to a wider audience by selling them or making them available through the Internet," the statement said.
It said a person who saw the images alerted authorities last week.
Earlier, in a letter to parents, the school's principal, John T. Colman, indicated that the custodian had allegedly used his school-issued cellphone to take and circulate photographs of students.
He did not discuss the nature of the photographs, but said the school would "provide whatever counseling or assistance might be necessary." Colman said the Prosecutor's Office informed him of the investigation on Nov. 21 and that he immediately notified the Diocese of Camden, confiscated the cellphone, "and secured the work area of the employee so that no evidence could be disturbed." Colman expressed gratitude to the Prosecutor's Office for moving "quickly to root out this threat to the security of the children entrusted to our care." The school in Gloucester City has about 640 students in grades 9-12 and about 70 in its junior high.
-- Contact Joseph Gambardello at 856-779-3844 or firstname.lastname@example.org ___ (c)2012 The Philadelphia Inquirer Visit The Philadelphia Inquirer at www.philly.com Distributed by MCT Information Services
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