Good grief. Was James Bond the inspiration behind the latest escapade in the Danbury State’s Attorney’s office? Or was it just lust gone awry in the form of a foot fetish? Whatever the cause, Connecticut’s premiere venue for the prosecution of sex crimes is now reeling in the wake of allegations of sexual misconduct by one of its prosecutors.
According to the Danbury New Times, Senior State Assistant State’s Attorney David Holzbach has been suspended. Why? He apparently came to work armed with a camera concealed in his pen. He used the camera to take photographs of women’s feet and legs.
I’ve been in and out of that courthouse for years and have worked a case or two with Holzbach. He’s never been overly friendly with me, but, then again, I wear pants that cover my legs and I don’t wear high heels. I guess I don’t present a photo op.
There is a delightful irony to this charge arising in Danbury. The Hat City is home to some of the state’s most aggressive prosecutors when it comes to child sex cases. How will the prosecutor’s office respond to claims that one of its own fell prey to seemingly wayward desire?
Apparently, Holzbach’s been on the radar before for similar conduct before. This is the third time in his 24 years that an allegation against him as surfaced. Reached at home by a reporter to comment on the charges, Holzbach artlessly responded that he did not know why he was sent home with pay. A simple "no comment" would have been more credible.
Do the allegations against him amount to a crime?
Connecticut’s voyeurism statute, a Class D felony, has a number of elements, each of which must be proven to find a person guilty.
First, a person must act with either malice or an intent "to arouse or satisfy ... sexual desire." Assuming Holzbach is not a podiatrist in training, it’s a safe bet that the pictures were taken to satisfy what the law calls a prurient interest.
Next, the photos must be taken secretly, that is, without the knowledge of the person being photographed. Again, I suspect that would be easy enough to prove, assuming, of course, one could identify the legs and feet in the photos. "Ma’am, I am showing you exhibit A. Do you recognize those arches?"
But the two final elements of the voyeurism statute just don’t fit. First, the photographed person must not be in plain view. As I understand it, photos were taken of people in court. That’s plain view. And, finally, the person photographed must have a reasonable expectation of privacy. That would be a hard claim to make for anyone photographed in a public place.
A creative and determined prosecutor might charge breach of the peace, a misdemeanor. Arguably, this surreptitious shutter bugging caught someone’s attention, and got them pretty upset. But that is a reach.
I do not expect Holzbach to be charged with a crime. However creepy the thought of a public servant sitting wiling away his day secretly snapping photos of his colleagues’ legs and feet, it is not a crime, at least not yet. Given the sexophrenic and medieval attitude of many lawmakers, it would not surprise me to see legislation to criminalize this ritualized fetishism.
Not every species of oddness is or should be a crime. There is a difference between acts that merely reek of weird and those that harm the public in some discernable way. What is most disturbing about the allegations against Holzbach is that he was a public official while he engaged in this peculiar pastime. The remedy might well be to remove him from his position permanently. It is difficult to fathom how he will ever again be a credible representative of the state’s interest. When it comes time to plea bargain a case with him, what do you do? Wear a short skirt, bring him a catalogue displaying women’s shoes?
There is something sad, even pathetic about this case. The only thing that amuses is that the state’s hot house for the prosecution of sex crimes has itself fallen prey to wayward desire. One would hope it might humanize the remaining prosecutors, and inspire the humility that comes of recognizing that none of us are without sin.