NEWS- Man of conviction: Ex-pastor gets 60 days in taped peeping
A counselor and former pastor whom one witness described as "too compassionate" was convicted September 19 on two counts of surreptitiously videotaping women undressing in his home and sentenced to 60 days in jail.
Gregory Briehl's July 18 arrest for child porn possession and illegal videotaping rocked the the Peace Lutheran Church community. The charges followed his resignation from the church for "crossing professional boundaries as a pastor in a relationship of inappropriate intimacy with more than one woman," according to Pastor John Herman.
Briehl videotaped women changing clothes, typically while dressing to get in a hot tub at his home. A handheld video camera covered by towels was on a bathroom sink countertop in one of Briehl's two residences, according to testimony by Albemarle police Detective Charles Marshall, who executed five search warrants in May after Briehl's wife found one of the cameras.
Eventually Briehl purchased a more sophisticated camera that was hidden in a clock radio in the bathroom, Marshall said.
Briehl admitted that he'd also filmed guests in the bathroom from an outside deck, and at least once from a tree, starting in the mid 1990s, according to Marshall, but he told the police he'd been peeping since he was 14 years old.
"Still photos don't excite him," Marshal saidl. "He likes movement, videos."
Six defense witnesses testified in Albemarle General District Court to Briehl's compassion, his skill as a counselor, and his remorse for his voyeurism and betrayal of friends and family.
But while Briehl was ministering to his flock, "He did not give in the same way to his family," said his wife, Kim Briehl. "What's on trial here is not Greg's counseling skills... There have been very deliberate choices. Greg has lived his entire married life with deception."
Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Darby Lowe emphasized Briehl's videotaping women at their most vulnerable, and asked for consequences for that betrayal and for invading their privacy while in his home. "He's been aware of his proclivity for voyeurism since he was 14," she said.
Briehl, 53, pleaded no contest "so the victims didn't have to come in and testify," said defense attorney Rhonda Quagliana. And she submitted to the court a letter of apology from Briehl.
It was not enough to convince Judge Robert Downer to let Briehl off with Quagliana's requested six months suspended sentence for the Class 1 misdemeanor, which carries a penalty of up to a year in jail.
In fact, Briehl's stature as a trusted figure in the community was a factor Downer considered in sentencing. "Peeping and voyeurism and that type of behavior are difficult to resolve," said Downer. "You can't really make restitution when privacy is compromised– when they went to a dear and trusted friend. The damage is real."
Downer sentenced Briehl to 300 days on each count, with 270 days suspended on condition of good behavior for two years and continued counseling.
Briehl still faces 20 counts of possession of child pornography.
Greg Briehl was the go-to guy for Christians seeking counseling, and former clients testified in his behalf at his September 19 voyeur-cam trial.
PHOTO COURTESY GREGORY BRIEHL