AUSTIN (KXAN) — A man arrested and charged nearly two years ago on one count of invasive visual recording was sentenced by a judge Tuesday to 10 months in state jail. In March 2017, the man used his cell phone to record women changing their clothes in the dressing room at the Forever 21 store in Barton Creek Square Mall.
According to the affidavit for his arrest, Martin Ammerman, 42, had more than 60 videos and 100 pictures of women in various stages of undress on his phone when Austin Police encountered him.
He bonded out of the Travis County Jail shortly after his arrest. Until last month, the case was set to go to a jury trial. However, during jury selection, Ammerman decided to plead guilty to the indictment and allowed the judge to decide his punishment.
Prosecutors asked the judge that Ammerman be sentenced to a year in jail. The defense asked the judge for probation and no jail time.
Representatives of the Travis County District Attorney’s Office said they were happy with the end result.
“I believe justice was served with the sentence the judge handed down,” explained Bill Bishop, an assistant district attorney prosecuting the case. “Given the fact that he’s never been to jail or state jail before, I think it’s a significant sentence. I know it doesn’t sound significant, but a 10 month day-for-day sentence is probably the equivalent of a three or four year sentence in a parole-type offense.”
Bishop said he believed probation would not be sufficient in a case like this — that it wouldn’t benefit society or the defendant, for that matter.
“He had 65 videos of other people that never knew they were being videoed, So, he could reoffend and we never know it. With the nature of the offense, as well, being so digital and relying on a cell phone, I think he could just have multiple phones and no probation officer could ever check all of his phones, or all of his computers, or all of his devices,” Bishop added.
It was revealed in court Tuesday that Ammerman had already been placed on probation once before for a similar offense in California dating back 20 years. It was that history that led Judge Brad Urrutia to make the decision he did.
“I can’t imagine in a situation like we have here where we’ve had cell phones capable of collecting video for a period of, oh I don’t know, might be ten years now that these phones have been able to do such, that that is the only time that Mr. Ammerman has done such a thing,” Judge Urrutia said. “If he didn’t learn from the probation that he had in 1998, I’m not sure that he’s going to learn now, regardless of what conditions I place on him.”
The judge also said the number of women Ammerman victimized is “disturbing.”
KXAN reached out to Ammerman’s defense attorney for additional comment Tuesday after the sentencing, but our calls were not returned. His defense asked for five years probation, saying that his client is “deeply regretful” of what happened and although it was no excuse for his actions, he told the court Ammerman was drinking at the time of the offense.
During the 2017 incident, a Forever 21 employee told officers she recognized Ammerman as the same person who spent about an hour shuffling around a fitting room Monday. According to the affidavit, she immediately recognized him when he returned Tuesday. Police were called when a manager observed Ammerman stick his phone under the fitting room wall while a woman was in the next room.
The woman told officers she was alerted by the manager that a man was filming her. She was able to identify herself in one of the videos found on Ammerman’s phone.
After Ammerman serves 10 months with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, or TDCJ, he’ll be a free man. There is no type of parole equivalent for state jail cases. He won’t be required to register as a sex offender, either because under state law, the charge doesn’t require registration.