Jim Dey | Bathroom-video battle moving forward as civil case

Jim Dey | Bathroom-video battle moving forward as civil case

Back in January 2018, University of Illinois journalism Professor Jay Rosenstein escaped a criminal court appearance after the state's attorney's office declined to charge him following a video-recording incident involving Chief Illiniwek supporters in a State Farm Center bathroom.

So far, however, he hasn't been as lucky in civil court, where former unofficial Chief Illiniwek portrayer Ivan Dozier sued Rosenstein for filming him while in a public bathroom.

The lawsuit seeks actual (in excess of $50,000) and punitive (none specified) damages for Rosenstein's alleged "intrusion of seclusion" and "intentional infliction of emotional distress."

Last week, Champaign County Circuit Judge Jeffrey Ford rejected Rosenstein's request to dismiss the lawsuit.

In a seven-page decision discussing the law on and social attitudes regarding the use of cameras in public bathrooms, Ford said "society states it is not to be done because it is seen as a private area and so offensive that doing so is not just a criminal act, but a serious criminal act."

As a consequence of Ford's decision, the lawsuit filed Jan. 18, 2019, will proceed.

"We'll see where discovery takes us," said Dozier's lawyer, John Gadau.

Urbana lawyer Chad Beckett represents Rosenstein.

The bathroom incident, resulting in Rosenstein's arrest, occurred on Jan. 22, 2018.

That was followed by Champaign County State's Attorney Julia Rietz's decision not to prosecute Rosenstein because, in her view, it was another in a series of political battles between the anti-Chief Rosenstein and the pro-Chief Dozier.

Rosenstein, however, was put on a paid leave by the UI for four weeks and removed from the classroom for a semester.

The professor said he was acting as a journalist and wanted to secure video of an unofficial Chief Illiniwek dressing for an impromptu halftime performance during an Illini men's basketball game.

Dozier said state law forbids using recording equipment in public bathrooms and has alleged that Rosenstein tried to "catch me with my pants down."

Rosenstein denied that anything other than a professional interest motivated his actions.

Beckett sought dismissal of the lawsuit in a dual motion to dismiss.

For starters, he alleged the lawsuit states no valid cause of action.

As a backup argument, he stated that even if it does, Rosenstein has a valid defense that justified dismissal.

Beckett sought a dismissal because "it does not allege an intrusion into a specifically private matter," patrons using a public restroom. Further, he said, because the bathroom urinals are separated by dividers, "Dozier does not allege facts that would support voyeurism."

Rosenstein "claims this is not private since (Dozier) does not explain why another patron walking into the restroom at the same time would not see what (Rosenstein's) camera allegedly saw," Ford noted.

Dozier's lawsuit, however, specifically alleges he was "using" a urinal, a private act by law and custom even in a public bathroom.

Ford agreed, stating that "in our culture, the court believes that videotaping a person urinating would be considered a 'highly offensive prying into the physical boundaries or affairs of another person.'"

Ford said that "when nature calls," people use public bathrooms out of necessity.

"This does not mean that most people believe that using a restroom now becomes a public viewing or a normal social gathering," he wrote.

In the second prong of the dismissal motion, Beckett said evidence would show that Dozier wasn't actually "using a urinal" or "in any state of undress" when he spotted Rosenstein filming him.

That claim led to Ford's professorial discussion of human anatomy and the tactics men employ when approaching urinals in public bathrooms.

Because Dozier had his back to Rosenstein, Ford said Dozier "could only have noticed (Rosenstein) videoing him after he had used the urinal. This does not lead to the conclusion made by (Rosenstein) that all of the videoing by (Rosenstein) was after (Dozier) was finished using the urinal," the judge wrote.

Ford said the facts are in serious dispute and Rosenstein may ultimately prevail. But he said facts relate to evidence, and a motion to dismiss "is not for resolving evidentiary issues."

Dozier's lawsuit seeks damages because he said in the aftermath of the incident, he feels "violated and has suffered emotionally" from Rosenstein's "act of voyeurism," "suffered headaches and nightmares" and "feels compelled to utilize extreme caution in using public restrooms," especially on the UI campus.

Jim Dey, a member of The News-Gazette staff, can be reached at jdey@news-gazette.com or 217-351-5369.

-