Damages awarded to couple in case a roommate installed a camera, spied on them

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WILLIAMSPORT – Two former Penn State students have been awarded $ 22,500 in damages from a third party who spied on them for six months with hidden cameras in the apartment they shared in the State College neighborhood.

Whether Matthew and Tina Edelstein Crust will see the money is uncertain as Niles D. Knutrud, 31, of Westborough, Massachusetts, claims he only has $ 32 in his bank accounts.

The former nuclear engineering student explained that he suffers from Crohn’s disease and severe back disease that requires an expensive fusion every six weeks.

A US Intermediate District Court jury of four men and four women awarded Tina Crust $ 11,500 and her husband $ 11,000 on Thursday.

Jurors discovered that she was in emotional distress and humiliation as a result of the invasion of her privacy.

She had testified through tears at times that “I am the only person who should see my privacy” and she would never want anyone else to experience what she did.

She now searches bathrooms for cameras and is reluctant to trust others, she said. She thought Knutrud was her friend, she said.

Her husband testified that he saw a therapist for six months after the incident.

Damages were the only issue in the day-long trial in a case related to Knutrud’s criminal prosecution in Center County.

A year ago, Judge Matthew W. Brann granted the plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment on most of their claims, ruling that Knutrud’s actions were so egregious “that they do not merit prolonged discussion.”

Knutrud had not been involved in the civil case at the time. He represented himself at the trial, claimed that an anonymous lawyer was not present and offered no defense.

In his final argument, he denied having the expertise to install the cameras and access Tina Crust’s secure Apple iCloud account on which she had stored nude and partially nude photos of herself.

The three had known each other for about two years before August 2017, when they started sharing an apartment on West Aaron Drive in Ferguson Twp. The two were dating then but have since married.

That year, Knutrud gave them a DVD player as a Christmas present, which he placed at the foot of their bed.

They became suspicious because Knutrud would sometimes take him to his upstairs bedroom. In May 2018, they took him to a Best Buy where staff confirmed the presence of a camera, microphone, and storage device.

A USB card reader viewed during a police investigation contained 43 motion-activated videos, including those of Knutrud setting up the reader and concentrating it on the bed.

Several hard drives, storage devices and computer equipment were found in the apartment, along with two hidden cameras in a bathroom.

The recovered videos included those of Crust and his then-girlfriend naked or partially nude and engaging in sex. There were also audio recordings.

In cross-examination, Tina Crust admitted to asking for a camera so that she could watch her dog while she was away, but said she was unaware of the others.

Claiming damages, Philip K. Miles III, one of Crust’s attorneys, pointed out that privacy is dwindling these days, with everyone using their phones to take photos or videos. The bedroom and bathroom are places where everyone expects privacy, he said.

In March, Knutrud was placed on two-year probation in Center County after pleading guilty to interception of communications.

Two counts of invasion of privacy were not prosecuted in a plea deal.

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