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Olivia, Minnesota, man sentenced to jail, probation for secretly videotaping women showering at hog farm

Nicholas William Steffel, 28, of Olivia, pleaded guilty to six separate counts — one for each victim — of interfering with privacy. He taped them as they showered to enter his biosecure hog barns.

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Nicholas William Steffel
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Editor's note: This story has been updated since initial publication to correct the terms of the sentence. The jail time and fines on each of the six counts are to be served consecutively, representing a total of 270 days in jail and $1,800 in fines.

OLIVIA — An Olivia man who was charged with surreptitiously videotaping women as they showered to enter his biosecure hog barns will serve a total of 270 days of jail time plus three years of probation after pleading guilty to six gross misdemeanor charges of interfering with privacy.

Nicholas William Steffel, 28, entered guilty pleas to each count Thursday in Renville County District Court. Each count is for a separate victim allegedly videotaped by the defendant.

The court ordered Steffel to serve 180 days in jail and to pay a $300 fine and serve three years probation on each conviction. The court stayed 135 days of jail time on each count, ordering that 45 days be servd on each. The court ordered the jail and fines to be consecutive, representing a total of 270 days in jail and $1,800 in fines. The court ordered that the probation for each conviction be served concurrently.

Terms of the probation require that he allow probation agents to install monitoring software on any electronic device to which he has access. The Minnesota Department of Corrections will assign a county probation office to oversee the defendant due to a conflict with the Renville County probation office.

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The court also ordered Steffel to write a letter of apology to the victims, but allowed that the letter be delayed until the completion of a civil lawsuit filed against him.

Steffel was charged in the criminal case after law enforcement found six videos of women he allegedly filmed in the nude through a window in the shower of his farm, according to a criminal complaint.

Investigators also found a total of 23 videos and 104 still images recorded between Oct. 30, 2016, and Dec. 12, 2019.

The six videos for which Steffel is facing charges were recorded between July 23, 2018, and Dec. 12, 2019.

The civil lawsuit against Steffel is pending in the district court. It was brought by women who claim they were among those surreptitiously videotaped.

The civil lawsuit alleges that each of the plaintiffs was separately invited to the barns. Some were there as guests and others as workers, they allege, and state in the civil lawsuit that they trusted him due to pre-existing friendly relationships.

The civil lawsuit also names Schwartz Farms as a defendant. The plaintiffs allege that Schwartz Farms employed Steffel to raise hogs at the farm, while Schwartz Farms says it had an independent contractor relationship with him.

State Rep. Tim Miller, R-Prinsburg, and State Sen. Andrew Lang, R-Olivia, both introduced legislation this session to extend the statute of limitations in response to concerns raised about the Steffel case. The current statute of limitations for surreptitious recording is three years. The bill would extend the time period to three years from the “discovery” of alleged surreptitious recordings, not the date of the event.

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoors reporter for the West Central Tribune.
He has been a reporter with the West Central Tribune since 1993.

Cherveny can be reached via email at tcherveny@wctrib.com or by phone at 320-214-4335.
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