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Trial canceled, plea hearing set for alleged surreptitious videotaping in Renville County hog barn

Nicholas Steffel, 28, of Olivia, is charged with six charges of interfering with privacy. He is alleged to have surreptitiously videotaped females while they showered to enter his bio-secure barns. A civil lawsuit has also been filed against him by alleged victims, and legislation introduced on the statute of limitations for surreptitious recording.

Custody photo of Nicholas William Steffel
Nicholas William Steffel
Custody photo

OLIVIA — A trial that was to have started this week against a man accused of surreptitiously videotaping women as they showered to enter his biosecure hog barns has been canceled.

The Renville County District Court rescheduled the case against Nicholas William Steffel, 28, of Olivia, for a plea hearing and sentencing on April 28.

He is charged with six gross misdemeanor counts of interference with privacy 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.

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The 17 videos recorded between Oct. 23, 2016, and April 22, 2018, fall outside of the applicable statute of limitations for charging criminal offenses, according to the complaint.

Nicholas William Steffel, 27, has been summoned to court on six gross misdemeanor charges of interference with privacy 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 the criminal complaint.

According to the complaint, an investigator with Renville County received a tip from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension about the sharing of a video by Steffel, and a search warrant was issued to examine his iPhone and iPad.

All six women in the videos law enforcement found were identified and confirmed they were the women in the video and were at Steffel's hog barn at the time and date of the recordings.

"They did not know they were being recorded and did not give anyone permission to record them," according to the complaint.

All six videos are of the women naked in the shower and the videos show that the recording is made through a window that looks down on the stall. The videos also show that while there are curtain rods, there are no curtains.

Entry into the hog barn is bio-controlled to prevent potential disease contamination, and showering before entering and leaving is required.

Steffel is also a defendant in a civil case brought against him by eight women who claim they were among those surreptitiously videotaped. The civil case includes eight counts of negligence, invasion of privacy, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and public nuisance.

The civil case lists Steffel as a defendant, as well as Schwartz Farms of Sleepy Eye. The plaintiffs allege that Schwartz Farms employed Steffel to raise hogs at the farm. The company claims it had an independent contractor relationship with him.

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State Rep. Tim Miller, R-Prinsburg, and State Sen. Andrew Lang, R-Olivia, introduced identical bills this session to extend the statute of limitations in response to concerns raised about this case. The current statute of limitations for surreptitious recording is three years. The bills would extend the time period to three years from the “discovery” of alleged surreptitious recordings.

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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