A man accused of taping surreptitious nude videos of ESPN reporter Erin Andrews while she was alone in hotel rooms appeared in federal court Saturday and was ordered returned to California.
Michael David Barrett made an initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Arlander Keys, who ordered him returned to Los Angeles, where charges against him were filed. Keys set another hearing for Monday to determine if Barrett will be freed on bond to return or must go in custody.
Barrett, 48, was arrested Friday night at O’Hare airport as he arrived from Buffalo, N.Y., the FBI said. He faces federal charges of interstate stalking for taking the videos, trying to sell them to celebrity Web site TMZ and posting the videos online, the FBI said.
Defense attorney Rick Beuke told reporters after court that he had known Barrett for about 10 years and never known him to be in trouble.
“I don’t think he’s even had a traffic ticket,” Beuke said. “He’s as regular a guy as you’ll ever meet — a great friend. I must have calls from 30 people wanting to know what they could do to help.”
Beuke said he did not discuss the particulars of the charge when he met briefly with Barrett on Saturday morning in court. He said he would study the complaint and try to visit Barrett at the government’s Metropolitan Correctional Center where he is being held over the weekend.
Asked how Barrett had gotten interested in Andrews, if the allegations are true, or how he managed to get adjacent hotel rooms, Beuke said, “I assume it’s not true. But we’ll know more on Monday.”
Chicago FBI spokesman Ross Rice said he did not know how Barrett allegedly became interested in Andrews. Asked how he had managed to get rooms next to hers, if he did, Rice said Barrett asked. As for why the hotels would give him those rooms, he said the hotels would have to address that.
Several TV networks and newspapers had aired brief clips or printed screen grabs from the videos of Andrews in July. The 31-year-old has covered hockey, college football, college basketball and Major League Baseball for ESPN since 2004, often as a sideline reporter during games. She was named “sexiest sportscaster” by Playboy magazine in both 2008 and 2009.
Andrews was scheduled to work the Auburn-Tennessee game Saturday night in Knoxville, Tenn.
She thanked FBI agents and federal prosecutors for their work and said she hoped the case will eventually help others.
“For my part, I will make every effort to strengthen the laws on a state and federal level to better protect victims of criminal stalking,” Andrews said in a statement early Saturday.
Andrews’ attorney, Marshall Grossman, said Friday night that the videos appeared to have been taped by a serial stalker who followed Andrews from city to city.
“He wasn’t an accidental tourist,” he said. “He had her in his sights.”
FBI agents said seven of the eight videos posted online were taken through a modified door peephole while Andrews was alone and undressed in hotel rooms in Nashville, Tenn., in September 2008.
Agents said they believe Barrett called many hotels to find out where Andrews was staying and requested a hotel room next to hers. Investigators said the eighth video was likely taken at another hotel, which Andrews couldn’t identify.
FBI agents said Barrett also made reservations at a Milwaukee hotel where Andrews stayed in July 2008. They found her door’s peephole similarly rigged, but he didn’t check in at that hotel and the furniture in the room did not match furniture seen on the eighth video.
Barrett tried to sell the videos to TMZ, but an employee there informed Andrews’ attorneys, according to the complaint.
FBI agents matched information in the e-mail to Barrett, and also examined telephone records and credit card charges from Barrett’s Nashville hotel stay. Agents also concluded that the videos of Andrews were likely recorded from a cell phone camera.
Barrett sought to place Andrews under surveillance to harass and intimidate her, and to cause substantial emotional distress, the federal complaint said. He faces up to five years in federal prison if convicted.
Messages left at a phone listing for a Michael D. Barrett in Westmont, Ill., weren’t immediately returned. Barrett’s father, Frank Barrett, 78, of Milwaukie, Ore., a suburb of Portland, said he hadn’t yet been able to speak to his son, whom he said worked in insurance. But he said the arrest came as a shock and the situation “does not match the Mike I know.”
“He’s always been an upstanding, hardworking guy,” Frank Barrett said.
A neighbor in Westmont, Srividhya Viswanath, 36, a homemaker, said that Barrett shared his townhome in the western suburb with a female companion, but didn’t know if it was his wife or a girlfriend.
“We used to see them in the backyard and say, hi, but we didn’t know them very well,” she said. “They weren’t home much. They traveled a lot.” She said she noticed nothing unusual about the couple.
Defense attorney Beuke said that Barrett had been divorced for some time and had children but did not provide details.
The charges were filed in Los Angeles, where TMZ is based.
Grossman has said Andrews plans to file civil lawsuits against the person who shot the video footage and anyone who publishes the material.