Traverse City RestaurantOwner, Contestto Hidden Camera Charges

Edward Witkowski, former owner of Morsels Coffee Shop, pleaded no contest to five charges related to installing a hidden camera in the women's bathroom. He faces up to 15 years in prison for his actions, which included capturing and distributing images of unclothed women.

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Traverse City RestaurantOwner, Contestto Hidden Camera Charges

Traverse City RestaurantOwner, Contestto Hidden Camera Charges

Edward Witkowski, the owner of the former Morsels Coffee Shop in downtown Traverse City, pleaded no contest on Friday to five charges related to installing a hidden camera in the women's bathroom of his coffee shop. The 49-year-old faces up to 15 years in prison for his actions.

Why this matters: This case highlights the importance of privacy and the need for accountability in cases of surveillance and exploitation. It also serves as a warning to business owners and individuals who may consider violating others' privacy, as they will face severe consequences.

Witkowski pleaded no contest to one felony count of using a computer to commit a crime, three felony counts of capturing/distributing an image of an unclothed person, and one misdemeanor count of lying to a police detective. His no-contest plea was made to avoid a guilty plea that could be used against him in a pending civil lawsuit filed by a former barista who aided in the criminal investigation.

The charges stem from a months-long investigation conducted by the Traverse City Police Department, which found Witkowski culpable of installing secret cameras in the bathroom and spying on women and girls during private moments. A forensic analysis of his iPhone revealed internet searches on how hidden cameras work and how to delete file folders, along with three videos of unclothed women taken by the hidden camera.

Witkowski, a former U.S. Marine, was arrested on November 10 and released on bond less than 24 hours later after paying $12,500. He will remain out on bond until his sentencing, with all bond conditions remaining the same, including restrictions on his use of cellphone, email, and internet. Circuit Court Judge Charles Hamlyn presided over the case.

The civil lawsuit filed by the former barista alleges that Witkowski violated the Whistleblowers' Protection Act when he terminated her employment. A settlement conference for the lawsuit is set for October 22. Grand Traverse County chief prosecuting attorney Noelle Moeggenberg declined further comment until after the sentencing.

The case against Edward Witkowski serves as a stark reminder of the importance of privacy and the severe consequences for those who violate it. As the legal proceedings move forward, the sentencing will mark the culmination of a disturbing chapter for the Traverse City community, which has been left shaken by this breach of trust.