When Huntington Beach detectives told Yvonne Goodwin that her neighbor had videotaped her nude through her second-floor bedroom and bathroom windows, the mother of two couldn't believe it.
"I thought it was a prank," she said Tuesday. Then police showed her hours of tapes. "I felt violated," Goodwin said. She said she hadn't slept in the bedroom since.
Goodwin wasn't the only one being watched. In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Orange County Superior Court, Goodwin and three others are seeking damages from a neighbor who pleaded guilty last week to taping them in various stages of undress using an elaborate hidden camera system.
William David Brown, 36, had been secretly taping his Huntington Beach neighbors for at least six years using high-powered video cameras mounted in his attic, the eaves of his home, his daughter's playhouse and hoisted 20 feet off the ground in a tree, according to the suit.
Brown spliced the footage of his neighbors into videos, which he labeled with such names as "My Little Czech Girl" and "My A-List Girl," distributing some of the images over the Internet, according to the suit.
Repeated calls to Brown's home went unanswered Tuesday.
Brown pleaded guilty Dec. 27 to three misdemeanor counts of taping someone in a location where a person has a reason to expect privacy, according to the suit. He was sentenced to 210 days in jail, three years of probation and attendance in a sex-offenders program.
The lawsuit, filed by Goodwin, 35, Meagan Rogers, 24, Jeanette Womble, 37, and Robert Figee Jr., 59, seeks unspecified damages for emotional distress and invasion of privacy. Figee is Goodwin's fiance.
Brown used powerful lenses to film the plaintiffs as they moved about in their homes or sunbathed in their backyards, according to Eric Traut, the plaintiffs' attorney.
Brown's mother, Lois K. Havens, who owns the home on De Long Circle where Brown lives, was also named in the suit for allegedly failing to warn police or neighbors about her son's conduct.
Huntington Beach police arrested Brown in January 2005, according to the suit, after Rogers and her brother spotted the camera on the playhouse. Police discovered video editing equipment in Brown's attic, according to the suit, and surveillance monitors in his garage that were connected to the outside cameras with underground wiring.
When police carried out boxes of videotapes and computer equipment, Brown begged the officers not to take the tapes because they "meant everything to him," according to the suit.
Goodwin said that as a neighbor, Brown seemed normal enough.
"I sat in that home right by him," she said. "It's all hurtful."