Man pleads guilty to felony voyeurism charges for 'upskirting' at Mountain Brook businesses

By Carol Robinson |

A 34-year-old man pleaded guilty to taking obscene photos of women at two Mountain Brook businesses.

James Phillip Huggins Jr., of Mountain Brook, on Thursday entered his guilty plea to the Class C felony charges before Jefferson County Circuit Judge Michael Streety. Huggins received a 10-year suspended sentence with a two-year probation. He must also register as a convicted sex offender.

Huggins was initially arrested by Mountain Brook police in October 2019 and indicted in March 2020. He was charged with four counts of first-degree voyeurism for crimes that happened at Publix on Montclair Road and Piggly Wiggly on Church Street.

Officers responded Sept. 22, 2019 to a report of voyeurism at Piggly Wiggly, Mountain Brook police Lt. Chuck Clark said at the time. The woman told police she had seen a white male taking pictures up her skirt.

Police identified Huggins as the suspect, and they obtained search warrants for his phone and other electronic devices. Forensic analysis of Huggins' devices showed multiple other victims. Mountain Brook detectives identified at least four of the victims and sought and obtained the felony warrants against Huggins. Clark said the forensic analysis revealed the activity had been going on for some time.

"Jay has accepted responsibility for his actions and offered a heartfelt apology to the victims of his flawed behavior for his inexcusable actions in open court today. He asked for forgiveness," said his attorney, Tommy Spina.

"While his behavior is unacceptable on any level, his actions , resulting in his guilty pleas, do not define the person that he is. He has been engaged in therapy since shortly after his arrest to address the underlying reasons for his actions," he said. "He does not do so in an effort to excuse his behavior but in an effort to understand and explain his behavior. He will continue in therapy to better himself and in an effort to insure those offended and society in general that he is not a risk to reoffend."

Spina said the images taken by Huggins were never disseminated.

"We are grateful to all those involved that have allowed him the opportunity to establish and prove that he is worth saving and that he can and will be a productive member of society in the future," Spina said, "subject to the restrictions imposed upon him under Alabama's exceptionally stringent sex offender registration and notification act."

The state's voyeurism law only took effect on Sept. 1, 2019. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed the anti-voyeurism bill that year which outlawed "upskirting" — which is when a photo is taken up a women's skirt or blouse without her consent. The bill - sponsored by Republican state Sen. Clyde Chambliss - makes it a misdemeanor to take an image without a person's consent. It becomes a Class C felony if the image is taken and used for sexual gratification.

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