Jury awards aspiring model $575,000 in McVittie case - Daily Press & Argus 2/9/03 #2

Sunday, February 9, 2003
By Jon Zemke

DAILY PRESS & ARGUS

A jury awarded $575,000 to a former aspiring model on Friday in the civil case against Dennis McVittie, the former Brighton talent agency owner convicted of secretly videotaping his clients in a changing room.

A jury in 44th Circuit Court in Howell decided McVittie was liable for invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress and violation of the Michigan Consumer Protection Act.

The plaintiff's attorney, Whitney Lemelin of the Schwartz Law Firm of Farmington Hills, said his client is happy with the verdict.

"I think she's happy because this judgment sent a message to Livingston County and the state that these types of actions won't be tolerated," Lemelin said.

He added that his client, Birmingham resident Carol Walsh, will use the money to push state legislators to make videotaping or photographing people while exposed without their knowledge a crime under criminal sexual conduct laws.

As the law stands now McVittie, who was convicted in August of 2001, doesn't have to register with the sex offender list or undergo counseling. Lemelin said McVittie was punished the same way as someone who had used a hidden microphone to tape a conversation.

In January of 2000, McVittie taped Walsh, then 20, changing clothes in his business without her knowledge. Lemelin said Walsh, now 23, testified in court that the incident traumatized her so much that she had to give up her modeling career. She is now a mortgage broker.

Lemelin wouldn't comment on when his client expects to collect the judgment, saying it's a matter his client wants kept quiet. He did say McVittie and his companies are responsible for paying the judgment.

McVittie wasn't present at the court for the trial. His attorney couldn't be reached for comment by press time.