- Associated Press - Friday, December 11, 2015

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - The Mississippi Supreme Court has overturned 10 of 13 convictions against a former DeSoto County minister who videotaped women taking showers at his two homes.

The court ruled 6-2 Thursday that prosecutors never proved where Samuel Allen Nuckolls transferred the videos to a laptop computer, so those convictions were improper.

Prosecutors charged him with the transfers because of a two-year statute of limitations on videos taken in 2007 and 2009. It had expired by the time he was charged in 2011.

The defense and prosecutors agreed on a set of facts that were presented to DeSoto County Circuit Judge Gerald Chatham Sr. in a bench trial to determine Nuckolls’ guilt. But Presiding Justice Jess Dickinson, writing for the majority, said the stipulation was flawed.

“Because the state failed to prove venue as to those ten counts, we must reverse them,” Dickinson wrote.

Mississippi’s Constitution says a person accused of a crime has the right to be tried in the county where the offense took place.

Nuckolls was accused of secretly filming 13 women between 2007 and 2011 at two homes in Olive Branch. He was arrested in 2011 while staying in a private home in Gosnell, Arkansas, during a local church revival where he was preaching. His hostess discovered a hidden camera set up in a bathroom as she was getting ready to take a shower, according to court documents.

Police said Nuckolls used a spy camera hidden in a pen that also contained a flash drive.

He was arrested with a computer containing the videos shot in Olive Branch. The state argued that Chatham made a “reasonable inference” that he transferred the videos from his camera to the computer in DeSoto County, but the court disagreed.

“To imply, as the state suggests, that the transfers occurred in DeSoto County simple because Nuckolls resided there - even though he allegedly used a laptop computer that (1) was purchased in Tennesse, (2) was found in Arkansas, and (3) could operate anywhere - would strain credibility and obviate the state’s burden of proof,” Dickinson wrote.

Nuckolls didn’t appeal two counts, and the court upheld a conviction on a third count of video voyeurism, because the statute of limitations hadn’t expired.

He remained imprisoned Friday at the Carroll County Correctional Facility.

Lawyer Ronald Michael told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Friday that Nuckolls hasn’t decided whether he will ask to be resentenced by Chatham. The sentences on the counts that were thrown out were suspended, and thus didn’t lengthen Nuckolls’ 10-year prison sentence. However, each count that was thrown out carried a $5,000 fine, plus requirements that Nuckolls make restitution.

“It was quite a large monetary amount he was looking at,” Michael said.


Follow Jeff Amy at: https://twitter.com/jeffamy. Read his work at https://bigstory.ap.org/author/jeff-amy

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