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Feb. 23, 2020

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Portland man sentenced in Vancouver voyeurism case

By , Columbian breaking news reporter

A Portland man was sentenced Monday to 90 days in the Clark County Jail for installing a camera in a mother and daughter’s bathroom in Vancouver.

Richard L. Townsend, 65, pleaded guilty Dec. 12 in Clark County Superior Court to first-degree voyeurism. He originally faced three counts of voyeurism, but one count was dropped after it was determined the video footage only included one of the woman’s two daughters.

The other charge was dropped as part of a plea agreement with the Clark County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. Townsend faced a standard sentencing range of zero to 90 days in jail. As part of the plea agreement, Townsend and his defense attorney, Susan Stauffer, were free to argue for a sentence as low as 60 days, Deputy Prosecutor Taylor Knight said. Knight requested the 90-day sentence.

In a video from Dec. 28, 2017, Townsend is seen installing the hidden camera in a bathroom vent, according to an affidavit of probable cause. The woman found the camera while she was showering. She subsequently contacted police and told her two daughters — ages 19 and 15 at the time.

Police examined the footage, finding that the woman and her oldest daughter were recorded in varying states of undress, according to the affidavit. Townsend was a handyman who was asked by the property landlord to perform maintenance inside the residence, Knight said.

Townsend didn’t have permission, however, to record the woman or her daughter, according to the affidavit.

“Really, this was just an extreme invasion of privacy,” Knight said.

The woman told police that, prior to finding the camera, Townsend would often tell her she was attractive and that he wanted to take her out, the affidavit said. After she found the camera, Townsend sent text messages asking her out to dinner, and then to stay at a Red Lion hotel afterward, according to court records.

Stauffer said during the hearing that her client was unable to watch the footage live.

When officers contacted Townsend on Feb. 2, 2018, he said he left the camera in the vent for construction-related reasons but forgot to remove it, according to the affidavit. Later, Townsend said he wanted to watch the mother to see if she was using drugs, the affidavit said.

The mother and her daughters spoke during the hearing Monday. They said that they’ve sought counseling and, while using the restroom, still check the spot where the camera was hidden. They mentioned lasting effects such as stress and anxiety, including a need to check over their shoulders while walking in their neighborhood.

They also said the zero- to 90-day sentencing range was too lenient.

“What he did to my family has traumatized us,” the mother said.

Townsend reiterated Monday that he installed the camera footage to determine if the woman was using drugs and that the motivation was not sexual.

“It’s like a sentence in itself,” Townsend said of the court case.

After Townsend’s statement and before issuing the sentence, Judge Jennifer Snider shook her head.

“I mean, I just don’t buy it,” Snider said. “This clearly victimized people — clearly.”