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Parents Upset Over Cheerleader Videotape

Nothing criminal about item on eBay, police say
Parents upset over cheerleader videotape
Nothing criminal about item on eBay, police say

By John Scheibe, jscheibe@VenturaCountyStar.com
May 25, 2006

A group of Oxnard parents are furious over a videotape for sale on eBay that shows their daughters cheerleading at two football games. Oxnard Union High School District officials are also outraged and have asked eBay to prohibit the sale of the tape. Both have hired attorneys.

But the tape may not be illegal.

Former Ventura County prosecutor Ron Bamieh, who represents the parents, wants whomever made and sold copies of the tape of the games in Santa Barbara County to be prosecuted if a crime was committed. He said the tape shows some 20 Rio Mesa High School cheerleaders at a game.

"We also want to file an injunction to stop the distribution and sale of the tape," Bamieh said late Wednesday afternoon.

But doing so could prove difficult.

Sgt. Erik Raney, a spokesman for the Santa Barbara Sheriff's Department, said he saw the two-hour tape, and he could find nothing illegal about it.

"It is literally a home video of two high school football games," Raney said. "There was nothing whatsoever that I saw that would constitute a crime."

Lt. Paul McCaffrey of the Santa Barbara Police Department said he saw stills of the tape and agrees that no laws were broken. McCaffrey said he also shared what he had with Santa Barbara prosecutors, "and they agree there is nothing illegal about it."

"There's no criminal investigation, and the case is closed at this time," McCaffrey said.

Despite the conclusions by Santa Barbara law enforcement officials, Oxnard Union High School District Superintendent Jody Dunlap said Wednesday the district has filed a complaint with eBay challenging the right of the seller to distribute the tape.

"We're outraged that someone is filming a youngster, then editing that" tape and selling it, Dunlap said.

Dunlap said she saw a photo of the tape being sold and it had "2005 Hot Cheerleader Video" in its title. A photo on the box also showed two uniformed Oxnard High School cheerleaders, she said.

"This tape was done to exploit these girls who are minors," Dunlap said.

The district has hired Jack Parham, a Laguna Hills attorney who specializes in school law.

As with Bamieh and Dunlap, Parham has yet to view the tape.

But from everything he's heard, Parham said, it seems that at the very least "there is a cause of action for someone using someone else's image to profit from."

"And if they used it for salacious purposes, then other laws were violated as well," said Parham.

"The district will not allow this; period."

eBay representatives could not be reached for comment on this story.

A reporter from KNBC in Los Angeles first brought the tape to the attention of parents and law enforcement officials, Bamieh said.

Keith Esparros, an assistant news director for KNBC, said a woman in Philadelphia alerted the station to the tape.

"She was looking for an instructional video on cheerleading and she was upset by this videotape," Esparros said.

Raney said his department also is upset, not over the tape itself but how it was presented to law enforcement investigators in Santa Barbara County.

Raney said KNBC contacted his department telling them they had evidence that a crime may have been committed. But when investigators asked for a copy of the tape, Raney said the station did not initially comply.

"We had to negotiate with them for about a week before they would even allow us to see a copy of the tape," he said.

"In the end, it required us to put a lot more resources into something that could have been resolved from day one."

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