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Attorney for Erin Andrews criticizes management at hotel
The attorney for ESPN reporter Erin Andrews criticized management at a hotel where prosecutors allege a Westmont, Ill., man altered a peephole to take nude videos of the journalist, saying Sunday that not only was the man booked in a room next to Andrews' at his request but that the rooms were in an alcove removed from the main hallway.
"I think [the case] has significance far beyond Ms. Andrews," said Marshall Grossman of the Los Angeles-based law firm Bingham McCutchen.
Grossman said Andrews was "gratified" that Michael David Barrett, 47, had been charged with one count of interstate stalking using harassing and intimidating surveillance, but he questioned the hotel's attention to privacy and security.
In a 35-page criminal complaint filed Friday, FBI investigators allege that Barrett, an insurance salesman, contacted the Nashville Marriott at Vanderbilt University and specifically requested a room next to Andrews, who was there in September of 2008 to report for ESPN.
The complaint says hotel computer records of Barrett's reservation show a notation, "GST RQST TO RM NXT TO [Andrews]."
Grossman said the hotel granted Barrett's request and gave him and Andrews "rooms at the end of the hall, in an alcove, where anyone would be free to do just about whatever they wanted to do in complete privacy," decisions that he said would "likely serve as a casebook study on poor hotel management."
The complaint confirms Barrett's and Andrews' rooms were adjacent in an alcove. It indicates someone used a cellphone camera to record Andrews after removing the door's peephole and altering it with a hacksaw.
Authorities allege Barrett called 14 hotels in Milwaukee in July 2008 to determine where Andrews was staying while she covered a Major League Baseball game. Police say Barrett learned Andrews would be at the Radisson Airport Hotel, where he later booked a room.
The complaint says Barrett didn't check into the hotel, but investigators found a similarly altered peephole in the room where Andrews stayed.
Radisson representatives were unavailable Sunday, and Marriott spokesman John Wolf said the company's only comment would be a prepared statement.
"The security and privacy of our guests is a priority," Wolf read, adding that Marriott has cooperated in the investigation.
Barrett, a divorced father, is scheduled to appear in court in Chicago on Monday for a hearing on whether he will be escorted in federal custody to California to face the charges.
Frank Barrett, Michael Barrett's father, declined to comment Sunday when reached by phone.
"We were advised by an attorney not to talk to you people anymore," he said.
Barrett's attorney, Richard Beuke, was unavailable for comment Sunday.
Authorities say eight videos of Andrews were posted on the Internet, seven of which appear to have been taken in the Nashville Marriott. The complaint alleges the same person who posted videos of Andrews also posted others of nude women filmed through peepholes.
Joe McInerney, chief executive of the American Hotel and Lodging Assn., said privacy is an issue "not just for celebrities."
He said policy at most hotels would not allow booking people in adjacent rooms merely because one of the guests requests it.
"They don't know what your motives are," said McInerney, adding many hotels will not even confirm or deny a guest's presence. He also said celebrities often use their own names to register but will be listed on a phone directory under an alias.
Margarita Marquez, front desk manager of the Congress Plaza Hotel in Chicago, said she accepts requests for adjacent rooms only if guests made the reservations in the same name.
Grossman said the Nashville hotel staff was familiar with Andrews and other ESPN personnel.
"One can't pass this off to simple ignorance," said Grossman, adding that the incident highlighted the potential for more disastrous consequences.
"You don't have to extrapolate very far from this to think in terms of somebody out to do even more harm and greater mischief than taping someone," Grossman said.