March 26, 2013

Former Westbrook resident accused of recording teenage girls

By Scott Dolan sdolan@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND — A former Westbrook man accused of installing hidden video cameras in a residence to record unsuspecting teenage girls while they were undressed was ordered held on $25,000 cash bail Monday after his initial court appearance in Portland.

Michael Femling, 45, whose most recent address was in Billings, Mont., is accused of 34 misdemeanor counts -- 30 counts of violation of privacy and four counts of visual sexual aggression against a child.

Femling allegedly made the video recordings in Westbrook between February 2009 and July 2011. The charges involve four teenage girls with whom he was acquainted.

Femling, dressed in an orange jail uniform and sporting a mustache and goatee, pleaded not guilty before Justice Roland Cole to the 30 counts of violation of privacy.

The four counts of visual sexual aggression against a child were incorrectly listed on a criminal complaint as felonies instead of misdemeanors, according to the Cumberland County District Attorney's Office, so Femling was not required to enter pleas on those four counts.

The case first came to the attention of police after one of the girls and then an adult in the residence found hidden cameras and notified police on July 4, 2011.

Police interviewed Femling and took statements from the girls, determining that the girls had no knowledge that Femling was recording them, according to court records.

"Michael had never touched them inappropriately or said anything inappropriate," Westbrook Police Detective Steven Crocker said in his written complaint against Femling.

In a search of Femling's property, police seized a computer and other electronics containing 11,000 pictures of children, "many pornographic in nature," and 19 video files of undressed teenage girls, according to a report by Portland Police Detective Eli Chase, a computer analyst who assisted in the case.

"One of the videos begins and terminates with a view of the male installing the camera so it could covertly record the bathroom activity and then retrieving the camera afterward," Chase said in his report.

Early in the investigation, Westbrook police turned the case over to the U.S. Attorney's Office, but ultimately federal authorities returned the case to local authorities to prosecute.

While the investigation was pending, Femling moved to Montana. But police said they do not believe he was trying to elude them and that he was easy to find when an arrest warrant was issued earlier this year.

Westbrook Police Detective Sgt. Patrick Lally said the charges against Femling are misdemeanors because nothing in the recordings is sexually explicit.

"If someone films something of a child and it's sexually explicit, then it's a felony," Lally said.

As conditions of bail, the judge also ordered Femling to have no contact with the victims in the case or anyone under age 18.

Attorney Robert Ruffner represented Femling for his initial appearance but decided that Joel Vincent, the lawyer ultimately appointed to represent Femling, should determine whether to argue for bail.

 

Staff Writer Scott Dolan can be contacted at: 791-6304 or at
sdolan@mainetoday.com

 

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