IOWA CITY — An Ely woman, who discovered her former employer secretly videotaping her pumping breast milk in 2018, told a judge Thursday she should “not have to live with shame every day for feeling like I should have caught him sooner.”
Robert Carlson, 68, an Iowa City architect, pleaded guilty to nine misdemeanor charges of invasion of privacy in November, right before his trial was to start, “making me suffer emotionally for two years of waiting, not taking responsibility for his actions until he was figuratively backed into a corner,” architect Jessica Clark said in her victim impact statement during Carlson’s sentencing.
Clark asked the judge to sentence Carlson to six years in prison instead of the deferred judgment he had requested.
“I feel that if he had not been caught, that he never would have stopped or felt remorse for what he was doing to me,” she said.
Assistant Johnson County Attorney Rachel Zimmermann Smith also sought the six-year prison sentence.
Sixth Judicial Associate District Judge Deb Minot sentenced Carlson to six years in prison, but suspended the sentence, putting him on two years probation, as recommended in the presentencing report.
Carlson had no criminal history and apologized to Clark and asked for her forgiveness during the sentencing.
The judge also ordered Carlson to register as a sex offender for 10 years and to serve a special sentence of parole for 10 years because this is a sexual offense. The judge included a five-year, no-contact order to protect Clark.
During her statement Thursday, Clark said she came to realize Carlson had “harassed” her for years.
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He frequently stood too close to her, leaned over her at her desk, “nonchalantly touched me, asked for hugs” and couldn’t take an object handed to him without touching her hand, Clark said.
“I would like to say for all those times that I did not — to stop touching me. Back up. Stop. You are too close. I do not want to hug you,” she said.
Clark sued Carlson and his company in May 2018, alleging sexual harassment, sex discrimination, invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The lawsuit was settled, but there are no details in public court records.
Clark found the recording device Dec. 18, 2018, in the Carlson Design Team architectural firm’s conference room, which she had been reserving for weeks after returning from maternity leave.
Police obtained a search warrant for the firm’s office and Carlson’s house. Investigators said electronic devices seized during the search contained 22 videos of Clark pumping breast milk, according to court documents.
In Clark’s statement Thursday, she talked about the day she found the hidden camera and could only “watch seconds of it.”
“I could not even bear to watch more than a few moments,” she said. “And yet that video and many others have been viewed by Robert, by the police, attorneys and who knows who else.”
Clark said she had to show “my body to dozens of people” in order to get a conviction. “I felt re-victimized by this fact.”
Her world was “turned upside down” the day she found the recording device, she said.
Not only did she realize a crime had been committed, but she also lost her job because Carlson Design Team was a small business with fewer than 10 employees. There was no human resources staff, she said.
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“I packed my desk and left that day — a week before Christmas with no job through no fault of my own,” she said.
She also talked about her struggle trying to find another job and feeling she couldn’t say why she left her previous employer. Carlson hadn’t been arrested and charged at the time.
“I felt others must have thought I was fired from my job,” she said, “or that I was the one that did something wrong, not him.”
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