A Former TABC Officer is Charged with Secretly Videotaping His Stepdaughter
Fort Worth Police were mum when Martin Herrmann, a 50-year-old former agent with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, was arrested late last month on a charge of improper photography/visual recording.
The TABC offered only slightly more information, telling the Star-Telegram that Herrmann had been fired in November for failing to cooperate with an internal investigation sparked when the agency learned of a Fort Worth police investigation. The substance of those investigations was anyone's guess.
Documents released Friday by Fort Worth police in response to an public records request provide a bit more detail.
The events leading to the investigation started in March 2012, when Herrmann's 24-year-old stepdaughter, who shared the family's home in the 4500 block of Red Robin Court, found a pen tucked inside a book of crossword puzzles that was kept on the back of the toilet. She worried that the pen might fall into the hands of her young child, and she returned it to Herrmann with instructions to keep it out of the bathroom.
The pen, however, kept reappearing. Once, she discovered it hanging in a toy bag, something she might have blamed on the child if the kid weren't too short to reach the toys. She grew more suspicious when she found the pen in her bedroom on top of her dresser, then found it there again after returning it to Herrmann. And she thought it odd when she arrived home to find Herrmann installing a motion detection system in her bedroom -- merely a safety measure, he reassured her.
The final straw came in November, when the stepdaughter found two pens, one in her bedroom, one in her bathroom. She turned to Google. The pens, she discovered, weren't mere writing instruments but doubled as clandestine digital video cameras. The motion detector had recording capabilities as well. Plugging one of the pen cameras into her computer, she found videos.
This was all disturbing enough that the woman went to police, taking the pen cameras with her. Digital forensic examiners detected deleted videos dating back five months, indicating that video files had been transferred onto a computer. Police obtained a search warrant and seized from the Red Robin Court home three computers, a Nook e-reader, cameras, and various flash drives, DVDs, and CDs.
That information was contained in a search warrant affidavit filed in Tarrant County. The city of Fort Worth is seeking a ruling from the attorney general's office on whether it has to release other documents, which it says are part of an ongoing criminal investigation. But based on the evidence -- the stepdaughter discovering video equipment in the bathroom, a subsequent charge of improper visual recording against Herrmann -- it's hard not to jump to certain conclusions.