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Minnesota man who took naked photos without woman's consent can rescind his guilty plea, Supreme Court rules

The high court on Wednesday, April 27, ruled that a man who'd previously entered a guilty plea should be able to withdraw that plea since his action didn't fit under the narrow conduct prohibited in law.

FSA Minnesota supreme court
The chambers of the Minnesota Supreme Court.
Forum News Service file photo
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ST. PAUL — A man who took naked photos of a woman in bed without her consent was not in violation of Minnesota privacy laws, the state's highest court ruled on Wednesday, April 27. That's because the photos were taken at the bedside, not "through the window or any other aperture of a house or place of dwelling of another" as is prohibited in the statute, the court said.

The Minnesota Supreme Court's opinion reverses a lower court's ruling and allows Barry Ishmael McReynolds to withdraw a prior guilty plea in a 2017 privacy case.

McReynolds in 2017 went on a first date with a woman and later stayed overnight with her in her apartment. While she was sleeping, McReynolds recorded video of the woman naked, he later told West St. Paul police. And he said he did so without her permission because she "would have fussed at me."

The day after their date, the woman reported to authorities that McReynolds sent naked photographs from her phone to his without her consent. McReynolds was charged with violating state privacy laws. On the first day of trial he entered a guilty plea, according to court records.

Before McReynolds was set to be sentenced, he filed a motion with the court to withdraw his guilty plea arguing that it didn't “fit the elements of the crime for which he was convicted and charged.” A district court denied his motion and an appellate court upheld that ruling before the Minnesota Supreme Court agreed to take up the question.

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In the 11-page ruling, the Minnesota Supreme Court said that the state's "peeping Tom" law wouldn't apply to McReynolds' use of a phone camera to photograph or take a video of a person in their home, without consent, because it doesn't fall under the state's law prohibiting recording "through the window or any other aperture of a house or place of dwelling of another."

"The question before us is not whether certain acts of voyeurism should be criminalized," Justice Anne K. McKeig wrote in the court's opinion. "Our sole task is to determine whether McReynolds’ actions are criminalized under existing Minnesota law. ... McReynolds admitted to using a cell phone camera to record a woman naked without her consent. But he did so within the same room as the woman, not through an aperture of a dwelling of another."

The court noted that lawmakers could consider rewriting the law to adapt to technological advancements but that would be "a question for the Legislature, not this court."

Attorneys representing the state and McReynolds didn't immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday morning.

MORE FROM DANA FERGUSON:
Several incumbent state legislators, particularly in the Senate, edged out competitors with more extreme views on COVID-19, election security and more.

Follow Dana Ferguson on Twitter  @bydanaferguson , call 651-290-0707 or email  dferguson@forumcomm.com.

Dana Ferguson is a Minnesota Capitol Correspondent for Forum News Service. Ferguson has covered state government and political stories since she joined the news service in 2018, reporting on the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the divided Statehouse and the 2020 election.
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