Victims shine light on video voyeurism

A syndicated talk show used the conviction of a traveling evangelist sent to prison for secretly videotaping the wives of close friends to raise awareness about how spy camera technology is being used by peeping toms.

By Bob Allen

Three witnesses at a recent sentencing hearing for a former traveling evangelist sent to prison for secretly videotaping women in a bathroom in his home went on national television Sept. 18 to raise awareness to the growing phenomenon of video voyeurism.

“We feel like we have heard tons of stories since this has come out,” Ashley Fisher, one of 13 women pictured in video on a laptop computer seized by police from Sammy Nuckolls, who was sentenced Sept. 14 to 10 years in prison, said on CNN anchor Anderson Cooper’s syndicated daytime TV program Anderson Live.

“We believe that it is somewhat part of our calling to raise awareness about video voyeurism and be there for people that have gone through this and maybe haven’t had the opportunity for the person that has hurt them to go to prison,” Fisher said. “That must be very hard.”

The program, which featured guest co-host Deborah Norville, also included interviews with Fisher’s husband, Adam, and with Nuckolls’ ex-wife, Kimberly Pollan. Pollan said she had no idea about Nuckolls’ video voyeurism until his arrest last October in Arkansas for filming a woman in the home where he was staying while preaching at a church revival.

“Not only me, it was all of our friends and family. No one knew,” she said. “It was very shocking. Nobody believed it for a long time.”

Mississippi law doesn’t allow a wife to be called to testify against her husband, but Pollan did take the stand to testify on the impact of losing custody of an infant she and Nuckolls had adopted three months before the adoption agency decided due to his arrest it was in the child’s best interest to place him with another family.

Pollan said she can understand why many victims said in impact statements during the sentencing hearing in Desoto County Circuit Court that they now have problems trusting people.

“I’ve just made the choice that I’m not going to let it make me someone that is bitter and angry and distrusting,” she said. “There is always going to be someone out there that is deceitful, but you can’t go around thinking everyone is out to get you or fool you. So I think that it’s really important for me to trust people again, and I want to be a person that can trust people. Maybe more cautious and not naïve, but I think it’s really important to trust.”

Fisher said she and her husband have chosen to forgive Nuckolls.

“For me, it’s not something that I just do once,” she said. “The feelings of anger come back and back, and I have to continually give those over and forgive him again, but I feel like holding that bitterness and resentment only hurts me.”

Adam Fisher, worship/media pastor at Living Hope, a Southern Baptist church plant in Marysville, Ohio, said there is a difference between forgiveness of sin and being held responsible for committing a crime.

“You can sin against somebody and you can go to them and ask for forgiveness, but when you commit a crime authorities get involved and you’ve got to be punished for your crimes,” he said. “So for us, we have to forgive -- not because it’s easy; it is very difficult.”

Fisher admitted that at first being betrayed by Nuckolls, whom he regarded a close friend, shook his faith.

“You question a lot of things, but in the end you can even read in the Bible; it talks about wolves in sheep’s clothing,” he said. “There are just going to be crazy people. Anybody can pretend to be anybody.”

Fisher said posing as an evangelist, with a certain aura around him that caused everyone to like him and speak well of him, was a perfect front for Nuckolls. “He was in the right position,” Fisher said. “He was doing the right job to do what he was doing behind the scenes.”

During the program Cooper displayed the actual tiny spy camera disguised to look like a writing pen that Nuckolls used to film his victims loaned to him by prosecutors. He showed video that a staff member took of him earlier in the day with the pen camera during a staff meeting, saying he was completely unaware that someone was taking his picture.

While sophisticated, Cooper said such cameras are inexpensive and easy to find on the Internet. The show website included three tips from Ed Copley, director of WomenSafeNetwork.com, for women to protect themselves from video voyeurism:

1) Be aware of your surroundings. Be conscious of who is behind you and don’t allow anyone to stand too close to you.

2) On escalators, turn sideways while holding onto the rails to observe those behind you.

3) While sitting in a public place, be conscious of how you position your legs if you are wearing a dress or skirt.

Previous stories:

Hearing reveals impact of clergy abuse

‘Peeping preacher’ found guilty

Peeping preacher suspect waives jury trial

Trial for alleged peeping preacher delayed

Trial nears for accused peeping evangelist

Alleged peeping evangelist charged in third town

Additional charges filed against alleged peeping evangelist

Evangelist charged with video voyeurism