Ledgerwood voyeurism trial ends in hung jury

Kristin M. Kraemer, Tri-City HeraldApril 3, 2013 

A Benton County jury was split Wednesday on whether a Prosser man acted with sexual desire when he hid a video camera in a bedroom where three girls changed after getting out of a hot tub.

A mistrial was declared in the trial of Kelly D. Ledgerwood, who's charged in Benton County Superior Court with three felony counts of voyeurism.

One count includes the aggravating circumstance that Ledgerwood used his position of trust to commit the crime.

After jurors returned to the courtroom for a third time Wednesday afternoon saying they were deadlocked, Judge Robert Swisher decided it was a hung jury and let them go shortly before 5 p.m.

The jury of nine men and three women spent about 4 1/2 to five hours deliberating.

The final vote reportedly was seven to convict and five to acquit.

Deputy Prosecutor Anita Petra said she is planning to retry Ledgerwood, and will add names to the witness list now that she knows Ledgerwood's defense.

A new trial date is set June 10.

Ledgerwood, meanwhile, is scheduled for trial May 20 on separate charges that he threatened to kill an exotic dancer when she refused to perform sexual acts.

That case involves second-degree assault, unlawful imprisonment and felony harassment.

He's denied doing anything wrong in either case.

The trial started Monday with jury selection. Both Petra and defense attorney Scott Johnson spent Tuesday calling witnesses and presenting evidence before giving closing arguments Wednesday morning.

Petra said the three teens had been in a hot tub at a Prosser home May 21 when they went to a bedroom to get dressed.

One of the teens noticed a camera sitting on a nearby shelf. It was concealed in a bag with a hole cut out for the lens.

The girl pointed it out to her friends, and they reportedly watched the 17-minute recording before notifying a mother of one of the girls and the authorities.

Ledgerwood allegedly could be seen on the video setting up the camera. It also showed at least one of the girls topless while changing her clothes.

The tape was destroyed by Ledgerwood before it could be handed over to Prosser police, according to statements in the trial.

Petra told the jury in her closing arguments that the girls had been celebrating the school year almost wrapping up and the changes that were to come in their young lives.

"But sadly you learned yesterday that it became a day to forget because these children were violated, and there is no ifs, ands or buts about it, their bodies were violated ...," she said. "And those three young ladies bravely walked into this courtroom in front of all of you strangers, walked up to that witness stand and told you how their rights to privacy were violated."

Petra argued that when Ledgerwood was confronted about it, "he said he was sorry, that it was stupid," but he never explained why he set up the camera.

She added that voyeurism is a calculated type of crime, from buying a video camera to figuring out where to hide it to waiting for the opportune moment to put the plan into place. She said Ledgerwood deserved to be found guilty "for violating these little children."

Ledgerwood took the stand in his defense and admitted to setting up the camera and turning it on. During his emotional testimony, he reportedly denied taping the teens so he could get aroused and said he was trying to protect one of the girls from someone he believed was preying on her.

Johnson, his lawyer, called the state's case a modern-day witch hunt and said "the government is nearly hysterical about a video that no one saw."

"I'm not going to try to get the Academy Award for closing arguments, but we're going to rationally look at this ... and at the lack of evidence," he argued.

The defense acknowledged four of the five elements: that Ledgerwood filmed another person; he did it without their knowledge; there was an expectation of privacy in that bedroom; and the act occurred in Washington.

However, Johnson said, none of that is a crime. The only real question for the jury was whether Ledgerwood's purpose in setting up the camera was to get aroused or for sexual gratification.

Johnson said prosecutors didn't show anything to support those claims, and the only thing that matters is what was going on in Ledgerwood's head at the time.

"If there was a crime for felony stupidity then you may convict him of it," Johnson said, arguing there is no evidence that there was anything more to the video than poor judgment.

Ledgerwood returns to court May 30 in the voyeurism case.

-- Kristin M. Kraemer: 582-1531; kkraemer@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @KristinMKraemer

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