Landlord Arraigned in Spy-Cam Case

Donald J. Torr is facing 14 felony counts of unlawful surveillance

    Donald J. Torr, 69, was arraigned on June 5 in Suffolk County Court in Riverhead on charges that he secretly taped and viewed tenants’ intimate behavior at the $6,500-a-week rental house he owns on Winterberry Lane in Springs.
    He is also the target of two civil suits filed in federal court by his alleged victims, one of which names Mr. Torr’s wife, Astrid Torr, as a co-defendant, although she has not been charged by the police.
    “They want to see a measure of justice,” Daniel Justus Solinsky, the attorney for one of the families involved, said in a telephone interview on Monday.
    In a television interview outside of Suffolk County Justice John Iliou’s courtroom on June 5, John Cortez, an assistant district attorney for the county said, “He was taking their money and invading their privacy at the same time,” and said that Mr. Torr “secretly videotaped 13 adults and 9 children without their permission.”
    According to the East Hampton Town police, they first received a call on Aug. 31, 2012, from a tenant who, they said, had discovered numerous hidden cameras throughout the house.
    According to Mr. Solinsky, of Salenger, Sack, Kimmel, and Bavaro, there were 15 cameras in all.
    Assisted by the Suffolk County Police Department, East Hampton Town police built the case against Mr. Torr, which they say included numerous families as victims, concluding with an indictment that was issued by a grand jury last month.
    Mr. Torr was arrested by United States marshals at his house in Celebration, Fla., on May 21, and was extradited to New York early last week.
    The family that made the initial discovery of the cameras filed a lawsuit against Mr. Torr on Oct. 12 in the federal Second Circuit, Eastern District of New York, court alleging a civil rights violation for illegal wire-tapping.
    Mr. Solinsky filed in the same court on Feb. 25 for his clients, charging personal injury after they realized that they, too, had allegedly been victimized.
    According to Mr. Solinsky, the family did not go through a traditional broker for the rental, which he said was $6,500 for the week. Instead, the four adult siblings, whom Mr. Solinsky said vacation together every summer with their spouses and children, found Mr. Torr’s listing online at two Web sites, TripAdvisor and HomeAway.
    “There were several phone calls,” Mr. Solinsky said, leading to the final one-week contract. The family members Mr. Solinsky represents vary in age from adults to infants.
    Mr. Torr is facing 14 counts of unlawful surveillance in the second degree, a felony charge, and 9 counts of misdemeanor endangering the welfare of a child.
    The unlawful surveillance charge is brought when police believe that a defendant has taped or viewed private acts of an intimate nature with no legitimate purpose for doing so.
    In another television interview on June 5, his attorney, Bruce Barket of Barket, Marion, Epstein and Kearon said, “As we have maintained all along, since this investigation began, he did nothing criminal.”
    When asked about Mr. Torr’s reported admission that he had taped the two families involved with cameras in bedrooms and one hidden in a bathroom, Mr. Barket said, “The admission by him is that there were cameras, and he said that they were not on when people were actively renting the house.” He later told TV reporters that cameras are common in many rental houses for security reasons and to prevent vandalism by renters.
    Mr. Solinsky takes issue with Mr. Barket’s assertion that the cameras were never used. Mr. Solinsky claimed that when a tenant would complain about something wrong on the property, Mr. Torr would view the problem area with a camera, which Mr. Solinsky said were remote-controlled.
    “When you view the camera,” Mr. Solinsky said about Mr. Torr’s ability to view and control the cameras from Florida, “you can view all of them at once. You’re looking at one screen, filled with 12 screens. He was able to see all of them.”
    Bail was set at $100,000, or a $300,000 bond. The bond was posted the same day. Mr. Torr is due back in court on July 11.