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Lyon sex tape case goes to Sacramento jury

Mike Lyon defense attorney questions whether investigators violated his privacy rights.

Real estate titan's attorney says she will challenge video evidence seized in raid of his home.
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Real estate titan's attorney says she will challenge video evidence seized in raid of his home.

Sacramento prosecutor Mike Kane’s closing argument began on a light note.

“I want to ease everyone’s mind. We’re not going to play any videos today,” Kane told jurors as the trial of local real estate titan-turned-accused video voyeur Michael Lyon came to a close Wednesday in Sacramento Superior Court.

For weeks, jurors listened to testimony from the women Lyon hired for sex and allegedly secretly filmed – seven in all – and sat through frame after frame of the undercover camera work that captured the acts in the bedroom and bathrooms of Lyon’s La Goleta Way home in Sacramento.

Lyon faces a slew of electronic eavesdropping and videotaping counts at the trial before Sacramento Superior Court Judge Robert Twiss connected to the surreptitious sex tapes filmed in 2013 and 2014.

The women testified that they had no idea they were being filmed until they sat down with district attorney’s investigators in January 2015. At least five of the women have filed lawsuits against Lyon connected to the videos.

“They had no idea these videos existed,” Kane said in his closing argument. “The crimes are the videos. The video is the crime. The videos are there. The conversations are there.”

Kane argued that some of the women thought Lyon was their friend, so lengthy were their dealings. One had been a regular of Lyon’s for two years. Lyon had asked another how she got into the business, Kane said. He talked to other women about his children and asked about theirs.

“He’s talking about his kids. They’re talking about Scouts. Some had other jobs, some didn’t. Some had kids, some didn’t,” Kane told the jury. “It’s on video, folks.”

Sacramento County district attorney’s prosecutors filed the charges after an Oct. 1, 2014, probation raid of Lyon’s home that in Kane’s words Wednesday uncovered “many, many, many, many” computers, flash drives and videos that showed Lyon and the escorts engaged in sexual activity.

Kane also cited video that appeared to show Lyon moving and concealing camera equipment; stopping and starting cameras; and setting up shots ahead of the bedroom sessions. In one still image taken from video, Lyon is seen surveying his bedroom for camera angles. In another, Lyon has climbed onto his bed to adjust the lighting. In another, his face is visible to the camera.

"He did it. He's Mike Lyon. He's going to do what he's going to do," Kane said. The women, he argued, were "nothing but another toy that (Lyon's) money could buy."

The raid and the charges Lyon now face came just years after he was convicted in Sacramento Superior Court in 2011 of secretly filming and recording nannies, relatives, friends and sex workers at his various properties. He pleaded guilty in March 2011 to four counts of electronic eavesdropping and later spent 30 days in county confinement and another five months under house arrest.

Lyon agreed in a lawsuit to pay millions of dollars in damages to those who claimed they were secretly recorded in the bedrooms and bathrooms of his homes.

Lyon defense attorney Linda Parisi had countered at trial that the sex workers had no expectation of privacy, were concerned only with concealing their criminal conduct and that at least one had recorded her session with Lyon as potential leverage against her wealthy client.

Parisi also argued that a deal between prosecutors and the women to ignore criminal acts of prostitution and drug use in exchange for testimony against Lyon hung over the case – claims that Kane criticized as attempts by Parisi to dehumanize the women.

"They're easier to convict when you don't consider them a human being," Kane said. "No matter who they were or how they lived their lives, he victimized them. He recorded them. They didn't want it. They didn't allow it."

But Parisi fired back, accusing Kane of prosecuting a "trial by distraction," again arguing that the women's main motivation in not being filmed was to hide their illegal acts.

"The DA's telling you which criminals to protect. He's portraying me as a villain. I may be a villain to the prosecutor's theory, but not to the truth," Parisi said, before turning to Kane: "Why does the truth scare you so much?"

"(Kane) says 'the videos are the crime.' No they're not," Parisi said. "Is it reasonable for them to have an expectation of privacy? Just like a priest and a penitent? Just like a doctor and his patient? Just like an attorney and his client? It's not like that."

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