Riverside rowhome accidentally knocked down

Rams Head executive gets 90 days in peeping Tom case

Rams Head executive in court Thursday for peeping Tom case.

The former president of the Rams Head Group used a hidden camera to capture footage from three bathrooms — more than had been previously disclosed — and the surveillance occurred over a period of three years, prosecutors said Thursday.

The details came at the sentencing of Kyle C. Muehlhauser in Howard County District Court. Muehlhauser, 37, admitted that he secretly videotaped women using the toilet at the family owned chain's restaurant in Savage.

He pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts of visual surveillance with prurient intent. Judge Wayne A. Brooks sentenced him to 90 days in jail as part of a plea agreement.

"People need to know that if you do this, you will be punished," Brooks said.

Muehlhauser, once the head of the popular chain of restaurants and concert venues founded by his father, was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs.

Assistant State's Attorney JoAnna Miller said a forensic analysis of a recording device discovered at the Rams Head Tavern in Savage revealed footage of two other bathrooms, including one in an unidentified home.

Some of the footage had been deleted or recorded over. Spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn said Howard County police were unable to determine the locations of the other bathrooms in the footage or identify those victims.

Authorities began investigating Muehlhauser in May 2014, when a woman who had used the bathroom at the Rams Head Tavern discovered a hidden camera. Police eventually recovered footage of six women.

Muehlhauser was arrested in February and charged with six counts of visual surveillance with prurient intent and six counts of peeping Tom violations. The visual surveillance counts carry a penalty of up to one year in prison and the peeping Tom counts up to 30 days.

At the time of his arrest, Rams Head executives called the incident "an insolated situation involving one bathroom at Rams Head Tavern in Savage Mill nine months ago." On Thursday, a company spokesman referred questions about the additional footage to prosecutors.

The Rams Head Group operates the concert venues Rams Head on Stage in Annapolis, Rams Head Center Stage at Maryland Live Casino in Hanover and Rams Head Live in Baltimore, and restaurants in Crownsville, Savage and Stevensville. The company employs more than 400 workers.

After Muehlhauser's arrest, the company announced that he would take a leave of absence.

When the hidden camera was found, company President Erin McNaboe said Thursday, "the Rams Head management team immediately mobilized and implemented the highest levels of quality control at all Rams Head properties."

Miller, the prosecutor, called Muehlhauser "a predator," and said his actions were an egregious violation of privacy that could cause intense anxiety for anyone who used the restaurant bathroom.

She said a woman who had gone to the restaurant for lunch with friends in May 2014 was in the bathroom when she heard a camera drop next to her. The camera had been placed under the sink and pointed toward the toilet in the single-occupancy bathroom.

"It could have been anyone's friend, wife, daughter, mother or grandmother," Miller said.

The woman who found the camera described to the judge how being a victim of voyeurism had affected her. She said she now avoids public bathrooms and worries about her two young daughters being secretly recorded.

"This has violated my privacy in a way that I never thought would happen," she said. "I have to plan my day around when I can go home and go to the bathroom."

The Baltimore Sun does not identify victims of sexual crimes.

Muehlhauser did not address the court. His attorney, Jason Shapiro, said public statements could be detrimental to the Rams Head Group, which faces civil litigation over the charges.

"He wants to talk," Shapiro said. "I told him he can't."

Shapiro said Muehlhauser is in counseling. He said Muehlhauser turned to voyeurism for the same reason others turn to drugs or alcohol: to deal with the pressures of life.

"He didn't think he was hurting anyone," Shapiro said.

Shapiro described Muehlhauser as someone "who basically doesn't color outside the lines" and is always clean-shaven and impeccably dressed. Muehlhauser lost his brother in a childhood accident, leaving him as his parents' only child. When Muehlhauser took over his family's business, Shapiro said, he was determined to be a success.

Muehlhauser's actions humiliated his family, Shapiro said, and their business took "a huge hit" financially in the wake of his arrest.

Shapiro asked Brooks to sentence Muehlhauser to 10 days in jail and 80 days in home detention. Muehlhauser has a young daughter, and his wife is due to give birth to a boy in September, Shapiro said.

But Brooks said Muehlhauser had put citizens in danger of emotional harm. He gave Muehlhauser a two-year sentence, suspending all but 90 days, followed by three years of probation. During probation, Muehlhauser will be required to submit his computer equipment to random inspections.

He also will be required to pay $1,250 to the woman who found the camera and $1,250 to another woman identified as a victim.

As part of the plea agreement, the other charges against Muehlhauser were placed on an inactive docket.

Brooks said he hoped Muehlhauser would continue to work on his problems in counseling.

"Good luck to you," the judge told Muehlhauser, as bailiffs handcuffed him and patted him down.

Muehlhauser's father, Bill, briefly addressed a crowd of reporters and photographers outside the courthouse. He was joined by his wife and his son's wife.

Bill Muehlhauser, who founded the company in 1989, came out of semiretirement to oversee operations after his son's arrest.

"We're all very, very surprised as to what occurred," he said. "It's a very difficult time for my family. ... As I've done for quite some time now, I'll roll up my sleeves and dig in and get back to work."

Lawyers representing women in civil lawsuits against Rams Head said the disclosure of footage from other bathrooms means their cases could be broadened.

"It was definitely news to me," said Clarke F. Ahlers. He is seeking class-action status for a lawsuit he filed against Muehlhauser and the Rams Head Tavern.

G. Russell Donaldson, who has filed a separate lawsuit, said there could be many more women with legal claims.

"We heard in the court today that this has been going on for at least three years, so we have a number of victims that we obviously couldn't begin to identify at this point in time," he said.

alisonk@baltsun.com

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