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Photographer of School Cheerleaders Charged

March 31, 1993|JOHN CHANDLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A network television employee has been charged with 18 counts of misdemeanor child annoying for making sexually oriented photos and videotapes of cheerleaders performing or practicing at Southern California schools, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said Tuesday.

Steven L. Ettinger, 38, of Simi Valley, a scheduler of commercials for ABC-TV in Los Angeles, falsely told school officials and others he was filming for a TV program, or was a photographer for a cheerleading magazine or for a cheerleading event sponsor, said the sheriff's detective working on the case.

The charges stem from pictures taken in recent years at Antelope Valley Christian School, a private school in Lancaster, at Van Nuys High School and at Crescenta Valley High School in La Crescenta, deputies said.

Deputies suspect Ettinger also took pictures at as many as seven other local schools.

Photos and four videotapes seized from Ettinger's house during a Jan. 20 search show cheerleaders fully clothed during games or practice sessions. The pictures focus on the girls' crotch areas and often don't show their faces, said Detective Mitch Loman of the sheriff's child exploitation team.

In a telephone interview Tuesday, Ettinger admitted taking the pictures but denied ever claiming he was working on a television assignment or for a cheerleading magazine or group. "I didn't know what I was doing was wrong. I shouldn't have probably been doing it," he said.

Loman said Ettinger remained free Tuesday but would be arrested, perhaps today. Ettinger refused to discuss his employment, but employees at the network office in Los Angeles said Ettinger works as a "day of air" coordinator, typically scheduling commercials.

The investigation began last September when Patricia Ralph, an administrator at Antelope Valley Christian school, confronted Ettinger taking pictures of the school's junior high cheerleaders practice. Ralph said she called deputies after determining Ettinger was not doing a network assignment.

These are our kids," Ralph said. "They have enough nightmares to face . . . You might say he stole their peace of mind."

The district attorney's office last week filed five charges in Antelope Municipal Court against Ettinger based on photographing those five girls and six counts in Glendale Municipal Court based on photographing six Crescenta Valley girls. And on Tuesday, the Los Angeles city attorney's office filed seven more counts based on pictures of the seven Van Nuys girls.

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