A Chicago-area man arrested at O’Hare airport who is accused of taping surreptitious nude videos of ESPN reporter Erin Andrews was due to appear in federal court late Saturday morning, authorities said. Michael David Barrett was arrested Friday night as he arrived on a flight from Buffalo, N.Y., the FBI said.
He faces federal charges of interstate stalking for taking the videos, trying to sell them to celebrity Web site TMZ and posting the videos online, the FBI said in a statement.
Several TV networks and newspapers aired brief clips or printed screen grabs from the videos in July. Andrews thanked FBI agents and federal prosecutors for their work on the arrest and said she hoped the case will eventually help others who have been similarly victimized.
“For my part, I will make every effort to strengthen the laws on a state and federal level to better protect victims of criminal stalking,” she said in a statement early Saturday. The charges against Barrett were filed in Los Angeles, where TMZ is based and where Andrews first became aware of the videos. She is identified in the federal complaint as E.A. Andrews’ attorney, Marshall Grossman, said he called her Friday night with news of the arrest. She was greatly relieved, he said. “I think she’s probably sleeping more soundly tonight than she has since these videos surfaced,” Grossman said.
FBI agents said seven of the eight videos posted online were taken through a modified door peephole while the 31-year-old Andrews was alone and undressed in hotel rooms in Nashville, Tenn., in September 2008. FBI agents said they believe Barrett called many hotels to find out where Andrews was staying and requested a hotel room next to hers. Investigators said the eighth video was likely taken at another hotel, which Andrews couldn’t identify. Agents said Barrett, 48, also made reservations at a Milwaukee hotel where she stayed in July 2008.
They found her door’s peephole similarly rigged, but he didn’t check in at that hotel and the furniture in the room did not match furniture seen on the eighth video. Barrett tried to sell the videos to TMZ, but an employee there informed Andrews’ attorneys, according to the complaint. FBI agents matched information in the e-mail to Barrett, and also examined telephone records and credit card charges from Barrett’s Nashville hotel stay. Agents also concluded that the videos of Andrews were likely recorded from a cell phone camera.
Barrett sought to place Andrews under surveillance to harass and intimidate her, and to cause substantial emotional distress, the federal complaint said. He faces up to five years in federal prison if convicted. A message left at a phone listing for a Michael D. Barrett in Westmont, Ill., wasn’t immediately returned Friday night. Andrews has covered hockey, college football, college basketball and Major League Baseball for the network since 2004, often as a sideline reporter during games.
A former dance team member at the University of Florida, Andrews was named “sexiest sportscaster” by Playboy magazine in both 2008 and 2009. She has been referred to as “Erin Pageviews” because of the traffic that video clips and photos of her generate.
“This is clearly welcome news,” ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz said of the arrest. “Our thoughts and support continue to be with Erin, who has demonstrated tremendous strength and determination.”
The federal complaint said Andrews felt ashamed and embarrassed and has had trouble sleeping and breathing because of the videos. She has also been worried that more secretly taped footage will surface, the complaint said. Grossman said by telephone Friday night that the videos appeared to have been taped by a serial stalker who followed Andrews from city to city.
“He wasn’t an accidental tourist,” he said. “He had her in his sights.”
Grossman has said Andrews plans to file civil lawsuits against the person who shot the video footage and anyone who publishes the material. He said in a statement Saturday morning that Andrews has worked with law enforcement and a private investigative firm to reconstruct events.
“Erin deserves significant credit for the progress made in solving this case,” Grossman said.
Andrews, in an appearance on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” last month, said she thought her career was over once the nude footage of her began circulating on the Internet.
“I kept screaming: ‘I’m done. My career is over. I’m done. Get it off. Get it off the Internet,'” she said as she remembered talking to her father. “They thought I was physically injured, (that’s) how bad I was screaming.”
Andrews returned to the air Sept. 3 as the sideline reporter for ESPN’s broadcast of South Carolina at North Carolina State. She is scheduled to work the Auburn-Tennessee game Saturday night in Knoxville, Tenn. ___
Associated Press Writer Erin Gartner in Chicago and Sports Writer Ben Walker in New York contributed to this report.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.