School janitor pleads guilty to making peephole films in women’s rest room

By Torsten Ove, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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Nobody knew what janitor Phillip Winkle was up to until the day in early February when two other janitors at Center Area Middle School wondered what he was doing by himself in a dark storage room.

It turned out he was making his own child pornography collection using a peephole camera he installed to record 600 video images of girls and women using the toilet.

That’s going to cost him 10 years in federal prison.

Yesterday in U.S. District Court, he waived indictment and pleaded guilty to child porn charges and agreed to be sentenced to that likely term in September.

State charges of invasion of privacy, filed in Beaver County Common Pleas Court in February, will be dropped.

Mr. Winkle drilled a hole through the wall that separated the storage room from a girls’ bathroom in an isolated part of the school’s lower level.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Kaufman said Mr. Winkle installed a camera that looked into one stall, sometimes operating it manually and other times setting it to record automatically.

The bathroom served a small number of classrooms and tended to be used by both staff and students.

From July 2005 until February, he made 131 recordings of female faculty and another 40 of girls using the toilet. Most of the girls were about 12, Mr. Kaufman said, but "one girl was so young she had to lift herself up onto the toilet seat."

Most of the recordings included sound, and in some cases Mr. Winkle made slow-motion images. In all, he downloaded 600 images onto two computers at his house.

He apparently maintained the collection for his own use, as there was no evidence he distributed any of the videos. None of the images show sex acts, but they qualify as child pornography under federal law.

After the two suspicious janitors caught him, Mr. Winkle confessed to Center police, who charged him with invasion of privacy and called the FBI.

Since federal child-porn laws are harsher than state charges, prosecutors decided to bring the case in federal court.

Mr. Winkle’s lawyer, Gerald Benyo, and the U.S. attorney’s office stipulated to the statutory maximum of 10 years.

U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Schwab doesn’t have to abide by that stipulation but almost certainly will.

Mr. Winkle is free on $10,000 bond until his sentencing.

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