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Legislature meets in special session to address the state's fiscal crisis Friday March 2, 2018, in Baton Rouge, La. Rep. Julie Stokes, R-Kenner, appeals for the passage of HB8 on the House floor.

A year after a New Orleans plastic surgeon was acquitted on video voyeurism charges for filming patients while nude, lawmakers are advancing a bill to expand the state’s video voyeurism law and make it easier for prosecutors to pursue charges.

House Bill 612 by Rep. Julie Stokes, R-Kenner, would make it illegal to video or photograph an individual when they have a reasonable expectation of privacy. The law also applies to the nonconsensual sharing of the images or videos.

Stokes’ House-passed bill advanced from the Senate Judiciary C Committee without objection Tuesday and will move to the Senate floor.

The state’s video voyeurism law currently requires that any illicit filming or photography be for a lewd and lascivious purpose.

Orleans Parish Assistant District Attorneys Laura Cannizzaro Rodrigue and Payal Patel presented the bill to state senators beside Stokes Tuesday. Rodrigue said the bill updates the law’s antiquated language and better reflects the way people are using cell phones, cameras and other recording devices today.

“It’s similar to a homicide case. We have to prove the intent to kill, but we don’t have to prove that he not only had the intent to kill but he was also a bad guy. We only have to prove the act itself,” Rodrigue said.

Sexual intent was the sticking point in the Orleans District Attorney's’ March 2017 case against Dr. Alireza Sadeghi, a New Orleans plastic surgeon charged on four counts of video voyeurism. Sadeghi was charged after videos and photos of four nude patients were found on his phone.

The videos and photos featured nurses dancing to music next to nude patients and flipping off the camera as the women lay unconscious while being prepped for surgery. Several of the videos and photos were transmitted from Sadeghi to his staff or girlfriend, a representative for a medical devices company whose equipment Sadeghi used in surgery.

Sadeghi was swiftly acquitted on all charges after a jury failed to find sexual intent behind the videos, photos and their transmission.

The videos and photos came to light after the Orleans District Attorney’s Office seized electronics from Sadeghi in 2015 following separate allegations by his estranged wife. Separate rape and video voyeurism charges against Sadeghi related to his estranged marriage were dropped following the acquittal, and he instead plead guilty to a misdemeanor of negligent injuring.

Sadeghi’s defense attorneys asserted there was no sexual motive behind the videos and photographs and prosecutors had mistaken medical documentation for pornographic material. The defense argued Sadeghi and his staff’s behavior was “sophomoric,” but not criminal.

Prosecutors said the videos were not submitted to the patients’ medical files, making them medically irrelevant, and that their production and transmission breached the patients’ trust.

Whether sexual intent exists or not, people with a reasonable expectation of privacy shouldn’t be subjected to illicit photos and videos being taken of them, Rodrigue said. Rodrigue and Patel, who both prosecuted the case against Sadeghi, also cited other cases where individuals were illicitly photographed or videoed in hospitals, changing rooms and bathrooms.