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University of Delaware Grad Student Arrested for Spying on Students

University of Delaware; Javier Mendiola-Soto

University of Delaware Graduate Student Arrested on 21 Counts of Violation of Privacy

Thirty-eight year old Javier Mendiola-Soto, of Mexico, was arrested and charged with 21 counts of criminal violation of privacy for reportedly putting the cameras in women’s restrooms around the University of Delaware campus. The majority of the cameras were located at:

  • The Delaware Biotechnology Institute (DBI)- 1st floor lobby and 1st floor women’s restrooms
  •  ISE Lab- Gore wing 1st floor women’s restroom
  •  Memorial Hall- 1st floor women’s restroom
  • Hugh Morris Library-1st floor commons area women’s restroom
  •  And the Willard Hall Education Building- 1st floor unisex handicapped accessible restroom

The cameras were allegedly placed in the bathrooms between May of 2012 and June of 2014.

While police currently estimate as many as 40 victims, other reports, including the University of Delaware’s report on their website have identified over 1500 video files seized from Javier Mendiola-Soto’s home. Since the spying occurred over such a prolonged period of time, it is difficult to estimate the amount of potential victims at this time.

While the criminal implications for Mr. Soto are obvious, including the recent cancellation of his student visa, civil liability questions abound as well. Depending on the relationship Mr. Soto had with the University of Delaware, liability could theoretically attach to the University.  For example, if Mr. Soto were considered an employee or agent of the University, the doctrine of respondeat superior could expose the University to civil liability from victims of the privacy invasion. Respondeat superior is a legal doctrine that says a principle (employer) can be exposed to liability for the actions of its agent (employee). Whether Mr. Soto was legally an agent of the University remains to be seen. Additionally, the University may have a direct duty to protect students and others legally on their campus. That duty may include putting in place necessary safeguards and undertaking routine inspections to ensure that this kind of flagrant invasion of privacy does not occur. 

Ashcraft & Gerel is Here to Help

Obviously, there is still much to learn as the investigation gets underway. Victims are currently being contacted by the police and students are being offered counseling to deal with this horrifying invasion of privacy. Ashcraft & Gerel, LLP is following the investigation carefully and already examining the legal ramifications involved for the victims. If you suspect that you or someone you know are a victim of this disturbing violation of privacy, please contact us today either online or by calling 800-829-7037. All consultations are with an experienced attorney, free of charge, and 100% confidential.