Martins Ferry man pleads guilty to voyeurism

The man accused of entering the women’s restroom at an Interstate 70 rest stop in Belmont County and recording images of people there will spend 180 days in jail after he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor counts of voyeurism, but he also will face felony charges of possession of child pornography at the common pleas court level.

James Dean Booth, 39, of 1516 Eighth St., Martins Ferry appeared Tuesday in Belmont County Western Division Court before Judge Eric Costine. He pleaded guilty to two counts of voyeurism that occurred in February. Costine imposed the maximum sentence after hearing from Belmont County Assistant Prosecutor Joseph Vavra, who reviewed some facts of the case.

“The state’s recommendation at this point is the maximum available sentence of 90 days on each count, to run consecutive to one another,” Vavra said. “Mr. Booth was entering public restrooms along Interstate 70 and entering the women’s portion of those restrooms and videoing women under the stalls. The state does believe, based on the activity and actions of Mr. Booth, that the maximum sentence is appropriate.”

Booth apparently was taking screen shots from those videos to create still images of people in the restroom.

Booth made no comment during the sentencing hearing. He was given credit for six days served.

Costine added that Booth also faces five pornography charges, each a fifth-degree felony.

“Each of them are punishable by up to a one-year prison incarceration,” Costine said of those additional charges.

Booth waived his preliminary hearing on the pornography charges, and Costine bound the matter over to a grand jury for future proceedings.

According to the Belmont County Sheriff’s Department, investigation of the matter began with reports of Booth’s apparent behavior at the restrooms. The Ohio State Highway Patrol initiated the investigation and was assisted by the sheriff’s office, then the Martins Ferry Police Department.

Booth was arrested last week and a search warrant was executed at his Eighth Street residence. Child pornography reportedly was discovered in the process.

“The case originated with the highway patrol and Detective (Sgt. Doug) Cruse of the Belmont County Sheriff’s Office,” Martins Ferry Police Chief John McFarland said. “Our officers assisted in the search warrant and helped Detective Cruse with whatever he needed in the process of his investigation to get this guy of the streets.”

Members of the public who believe they have seen suspicious behavior by Booth are asked to call the Belmont County Sheriff’s Office at 740-695-7933 and ask for Cruse.