Mississippi traveling evangelist accused of videotaping women

The Fort Worth Star-TelegramApril 3, 2012 

A Mississippi traveling evangelist who often spoke to Texas youth groups -- including several times at a Southlake church -- is accused of secretly filming women and girls as young as 17 as they undressed in bathrooms, police agencies said.

Samuel Nuckolls has been accused of capturing video of as many as 18 females. In February, he was indicted in Mississippi on 13 counts of video voyeurism, said Steve Jubera, assistant district attorney for DeSoto County, Miss. Police in Arkansas said they are also pursuing charges, as are authorities in Texas.

Gosnell, Ark., Police Chief Bobby Trump said that in October, the wife of a youth minister with whom Nuckolls was staying noticed a pen camera in the family's bathroom. She later found that it contained a flash drive and looked to see what was on it. "Lo and behold, there's her on the video getting undressed," Trump said.

Trump said Nuckolls admitted making videos of three females, including two in Mississippi, without their consent. However, Trump continued to investigate, eventually turning over evidence to authorities in Mississippi. "I guess he figured he's from a bigger city, we're small-town people, we'd just take his word" for it, Trump said. "He just thought we were a bunch of hillbillies here."

Mississippi authorities identified some victims from Texas and eventually alerted police in Seymour. Officials there said they are handing over information concerning accusations of improper photography or visual recording of two females to the district attorney for presentation to the grand jury.

One of Nuckolls' attorneys, Ronald Michael of Booneville, Miss., said his client has pleaded not guilty to the Mississippi charges.

"Obviously we will defend him as aggressively as we can," Michael said. He added that Nuckolls seems concerned about his situation "but seems to have a concern about the people, too.

"I think he's a good man."

Nuckolls could not be reached for comment.

In association with Gateway Church in Southlake, Nuckolls appeared about a half-dozen times over three years to talk with youth in groups and at camps. After the church learned of the allegations three or four months ago, officials and local law enforcement officers investigated and found no evidence of improprieties, a spokesman said.

Nuckolls had passed a required background check, church officials said.

"As large a church as we are, as many events and students and camps as we have, we have very strict policies and procedures and safeguards in place," said spokesman Lawrence Swicegood. "I'm not saying it can't happen here, but any situation where students are involved we're very careful that our policies and procedures are adhered to."

Because the church cleared Nuckolls of wrongdoing, Swicegood said church officials have not informed the congregation of the accusations.

In Arkansas, Nuckolls had been staying at the home of the youth minister for a church where he had been invited to speak. After Nuckolls came out of the bathroom, the youth minister's wife went in and started getting undressed. She noticed that Nuckolls had left several items laying around, including his shaving kit on the bathroom counter. She also noticed what appeared to be an oversized black pen standing straight up inside the kit, according to a police report. The pen's top appeared to have a pin hole.

She knocked the pen over and finished in the bathroom. Nuckolls re-entered the bathroom and gathered up his things and went back to his room, the report said. Nuckolls and her husband then left on a business trip.

The woman went to Nuckolls' room, found the pen, took off the top and found the flash drive. When she plugged it into her computer and saw the video, she called police. When Nuckolls returned, he was arrested and later charged with felony video voyeurism. Bail was set at $50,000, the report said.

"Nuckolls was advised of his rights and gave police a statement, admitting to videotaping the victim with a hidden camera without her consent and also admitted to doing it two other times in Olive Branch, Miss.," the report says.

Trump said he searched Nuckolls' computer and found several more videos dating to 2007. In addition to the videos that Nuckolls admitted to recording, Trump said he discovered a video in which Nuckolls apparently tried to position a camera to view up a female's skirt.

"I hope he pleads not guilty and goes to trial and embarrasses [himself] some more," Trump said.

Jubera, the assistant Mississippi district attorney, said all the women identified were under 26. Each of the 13 Mississippi counts carries a maximum sentence of five years and is a registrable sex offense.

Nuckolls' trial there is set for June 25.

To read more, visit www.star-telegram.com.

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