By Bob Allen
Incriminating video that three years ago helped land a former Southern Baptist evangelist in prison for video voyeurism aired on national television Oct. 15.
Thursday’s installment of Crime Watch Daily, a syndicated investigative news magazine series that debuted in the United States and Canada on Sept. 14, opened with the story of Sammy Nuckolls, a once-popular speaker at youth events including LifeWay Christian Resources’ FUGE summer camps. He is now serving 10 years in prison for planting hidden cameras to spy on women in a bathroom at his home in Olive Branch, Miss.
The broadcast, shown in two parts, includes clips shown at his sentencing hearing in September 2012 of Nuckolls setting up spy cameras to capture video of female houseguests as they got undressed to shower. Victims testified to feeling shame and violation of trust with descriptions including “video rape.”
“From the first time that I ever entered their home, that was his objective of our friendship,” Ashley Fisher, one of a few of Nuckolls’ victims who has spoken publicly about the crimes, told Crime Watch Daily.
Her husband, Adam Fisher, a youth pastor and worship leader who once looked up to Nuckolls as a role model and mentor, said he had to put their friendship aside when confronted with the revelation that they and other couples like them were being manipulated and abused.
“Looking back, I see there were a lot of different red flags I could have noticed but just kind of threw to the side, because he was a traveling evangelist,” Fisher admitted. “I mean, you can trust those guys.”
Nuckolls was arrested, subsequently indicted, and found guilty after a bench trial of 13 counts of video voyeurism, defined in the Mississippi Code as the act of “photographing or filming another without permission where there is expectation of privacy.”
Nuckolls pleaded guilty to similar charges in two counties in Arkansas but avoided prison with plea bargains. DeSoto County circuit judge Gerald Chatham found Nuckolls guilty of crimes committed in his jurisdiction Sept. 14, 2012, sentencing him to prison and more than $80,000 in fines and restitution. After his release from prison Nuckolls faces another 10 years of treatment and monitoring.
Judge Chatham turned down Nuckoll’s request in 2014 to have his sentence reduced. This summer the case went before the Mississippi Supreme Court.
Authorities in Mississippi say Nuckolls secretly recorded 13 women between 2007 and 2008 at his home in Olive Branch. While that placed the filming outside of a two-year statute of limitations, prosecutors said the act of transferring the videos to a new laptop computer that Nuckolls purchased in 2011 amounted to a “reproduction” of the images within the two-year window.
Nuckolls’ attorney Ronald Michael argued before the Supreme Court June 22 that “photographs, films, videotapes, records or otherwise reproduces” language written to the law in 1999 doesn’t take into account the complex ways media is defined and stored today. Even if Judge Chatham was correct in his interpretation that moving the images to a new computer “reproduces” them, Michael said, “there was no evidence of when the transfer took place, how the transfer took place or who made the transfer.”
If the transfer happened in another state or county, Michael said, DeSoto County would lack jurisdiction to prosecute.