Man charged with voyeurism after alleged incident in Zahm House bathroom
Natalie Weber | Tuesday, December 10, 2019
A 21-year-old man was charged with voyeurism Nov. 21 for allegedly pointing his cell phone camera at a student in a Zahm House bathroom stall, according to court documents obtained by The Observer. The man was previously enrolled at the University and has been identified as Benjamine Wears.
On Sept. 22, around 3 p.m., a student told Zahm rector Robert Francis that while using a first floor restroom in Zahm, he saw the person in the stall next to him holding a cell phone near his ankles with the camera application open. According to the probable cause affidavit, the cell phone was “pointed into [the student’s] stall under the divider between the two stalls” and the student could see the camera application and images on the screen.
Thinking a friend was trying to prank him, the student yelled “what the [expletive]” but the person did not leave the stall. The student waited until the occupant left the stall and eventually saw a man with black shoes and a green backpack with a plastic bottle exit and “bolt” out of the bathroom without washing his hands, court documents said.
The student chased after the man but didn’t catch him, and later that day reported the incident to the Zahm rector, according to court documents. A police report was filed that afternoon.
The next weekend, the student saw the suspect, “who identified himself eventually as Benjamine Wears by both name and by ND ID card,” according to the probable cause affidavit. Police on Oct. 4 interviewed Wears, who said several times he had not been at Zahm.
When asked why he tried to swipe into Zahm in August, even though his card wasn’t able to open the door, Wears said he was testing to see if his ID really wouldn’t work on the dormitories, court documents said. When asked about a similar incident that happened in the Hesburgh Library, Wears said he was not responsible for the incident.
After executing a search warrant for Wears’ phone and searching it, the Notre Dame Police Department did not find any videos of the inside of the bathrooms. However, the location data of the phone was consistent with Zahm House around the time of the incident, according to the court documents, and the phone’s data shows the camera application was open at a time consistent with the student’s description of events.
According to the probable cause affidavit, the location data for Wears’ phone was consistent with the library around the time of the other incident, and the location data shows he left the library a few minutes after the time of the incident.
Data from Wears’ phone allegedly shows he had visited websites where men were unknowingly recorded in bathrooms, according to court documents. However, there is no evidence he ever uploaded any videos to the sites.
Wears faces one charge of voyeurism and had his initial hearing on Dec. 3., Jessica McBrier, the St. Joseph County prosecutor’s office spokesperson, said. Wears’ attorney, Michael Tuszynski, did not return a request for comment by the time of publication.
University spokesperson Dennis Brown provided a statement on the alleged incident on behalf of Notre Dame.
“The student is not enrolled at the University, and local authorities are addressing the matter,” Brown said.