Woman testifies in secret taping - Ann Arbor News 2/6/03 #2

Humiliation dims dream of being a model, she says

Thursday, February 6, 2003

BY T0M TOLEN
News Staff Reporter

A woman who was videotaped while changing clothes in the office of a former Brighton talent agency testified Friday that she was humiliated by the incident and is no longer pursuing her dream of being a model.

The 23-year-old Birmingham woman testified in Livingston County Circuit Court in a trial regarding the civil lawsuit she filed against Dennis McVittie, who ran a talent agency and dance studio in Brighton. He was convicted on eavesdropping charges after police discovered videotapes of women changing clothes in his office. The woman is suing for damages in excess of $25,000, charging invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress and violation of the Michigan Consumer Protection Act.

The trial, before Circuit Judge Stanley Latreille, is expected
to conclude today.

McVittie, arrested after a client complained to police, pleaded no contest to three counts of eavesdropping. He was sentenced Aug. 9, 2001, to 16-24 months in prison. Police say he videotaped at least 33 aspiring models and dancers, including some minors.

Attorney Sean Zayas of Plymouth, representing McVittie, said Wednesday that his client acknowledges videotaping the woman but said that the activity is mitigated by the fact that he at no time touched her in an improper way or made any sexual overtures. McVittie was not present at the trial.

Represented by Farmington Hills attorney Whitney Lemelin, the woman alleges McVittie videotaped her without her knowledge or consent in 1999 at his Dancin' & More Studios. The woman said McVittie asked her to change into items such as bathing suits while he was out, then left, locking the door. There was no changing room, and the small bathroom was dirty which forced her to undress in his office, she told the court.

"I've wanted to be a model since I was a little girl," the woman said, adding it is unlikely she will pursue her dream now because she has lost her trust in people.

Now employed as a mortgage broker, the woman said she learned about the taping in January 2001 when she saw a television report saying Brighton City Police were asking for help from anyone who had gone to the Brighton agency for modeling photos.

"I was so humiliated, it was an emotional roller coaster," the woman said. She went to the police and identified herself as one of the women undressing on the tapes. "I felt so little, so degraded, so violated," she said.

Zayas asked the woman why she failed to seek counseling or psychological help for the apparent emotional trauma. She said she was too "ashamed" and didn't want it on her medical record, particularly because she had just obtained medical insurance. She also said she received informal counseling and emotional support from her mother, a social worker.

Tom Tolen covers Livingston County. He can be reached at
tolen@ismi.net or (810) 225-8637.