PHOENIXVILLE - A man regarded as a trusted friend by neighbors stored hundreds of files on his cell phone and computer of unauthorized videos of his female neighbors and photographs of their underwear.
Mark N. Kawchak, 51, of Schuylkill Township, has been charged with 35 counts of felony criminal trespassing and other related charges.
Kawchak's three-hour preliminary hearing Thursday ended with District Judge Theodore P. Michaels raising Kawchak's bail to $100,000 and remanding Kawchak to the Chester County Prison.
Six women - three of them minors - were shown video clips in court that Kawchak took of them from his home. Each of them denied giving Kawchak permission to take the video and none of them knew they were being recorded.
Police were notified of the situation on November 23, 2012, when Thomas Tague and Robert Werner, along with their daughters, told township police the girls had found suspicious video on Kawchak's camera.
Kawchak asked the girls to check on his house and watch the family pets while his family was away, according to the police report.
When the girls entered his home, they noticed Kawchak's video camera sitting on the counter, police said. Due to their previous knowledge of how often Kawchak used his camera, they started going through the files, police said.
The girls noticed that pictures on the camera were of themselves and bras belonging to one of the girl's 15-year-old sister.
During the execution of a search warrant on Jan. 2, Schuylkill Township Police Officer Brian McCarthy interviewed Kawchak.
McCarthy testified that Kawchak admitted in that initial, voluntary interview that 'underwear excites him.'
The prosecution presented eight pages of pictures taken from Kawchak's cell phone and stills from his video camera to the court.
Some of the pictures contained pictures of bras, underwear and bathing suits belonging to the women laid out on their beds and bathroom floors.
One picture described by McCarthy was of a dirty pair of underwear, allegedly taken from one of the minor's laundry basket.
McCarthy testified that many of the picture files had been renamed by Kawchak to describe the contents.
Also during his testimony, McCarthy identified areas in Kawchak's house where some of the videos were taken from. Due to the proximity of the houses in the neighborhood, McCarthy said there were direct views of the women from windows in Kawchak's home.
Every so often, Kawchak would slightly shake his head in disagreement with something said by a witness.
The videos shown in court Thursday were of victims doing yard work, or walking around their homes and neighborhood.
In some of the videos, Kawchak used the zoom function on his video camera to get in close to certain parts of the women.
Anger and disgust were clear from some of the women, and tensions were running high in the courtroom at the end of the proceeding with the judge asked everyone connected to the case to listen to the legal arguments presented by both sides.
The decision to waive the felony counts of invasion of privacy charges to a higher court was a difficult one, according to Judge Michaels.
'I'm not saying this isn't creepy,' Michaels said about the videos on Kawchak's camera.
He continued saying that he wasn't sure the prosecution had enough to allow the felony invasion of privacy charges to continue to a higher court because the prosecution took actions that are borderline illegal and making them seem illegal by combining the videos with the pictures of the underwear.
During the arguments, two of the girls clasped hands and looked on anxiously.
But after he said this was one of the few times he felt he had not done his duty, he held all the charges for a higher court.
Michaels also said that part of his reasoning for ruling that way was to avoid having the witnesses go through testifying again in front of another district judge.
Then Michaels brought forward a ruling on Kawchak's bail.
According to court documents from his preliminary arraignment, Kawchak posted $35,000 cash bail and was allowed to return home under the conditions that there was not to be any direct or indirect contact with the victims.
Three situations were presented from a father of one of the girls that showed Kawchak violated the conditions. It was then that Michaels raised Kawchak's bail and put him under arrest.
Outside the courtroom, there was palpable relief and audible sighs from the victims and their families.
Kawchak's formal arraignment was set for 9:30 a.m. on April 25 at the Chester County Courthouse in West Chester.