A North Idaho College professor was arrested Wednesday night for allegedly filming his roommate and former student with a hidden bathroom camera.
Jon A. Downing, 35, was charged with two counts of felony video voyeurism after a man reportedly found a pinhole-style video camera hidden in a shared bathroom wall.
Police said the 20-year-old man grew suspicious of Downing recording him, found the camera and searched through a computer the men shared. When the man found secretly recorded nude videos and photos of him and his girlfriend, he contacted authorities.
Downing admitted Wednesday to covertly recording his roommate, police said, but denied intentionally recording the woman. He was arrested and booked into Kootenai County Jail.
The roommate said he was a former student of Downing, a chemistry professor who has also been a faculty adviser of the NIC Gender and Sexuality Alliance, formerly known as the NIC Gay-Straight Alliance.
Downing is also being investigated for an unrelated Title IX complaint, according to NIC, which said it couldn’t share details of the case. Title IX, a federal law, addresses such incidents as gender-based discrimination, sexual harassment and sexual violence.
When speaking to police, the roommate said he was 15 years old when he took Downing’s chemistry class at NIC. Downing made sexual advances toward him when he was underage, the roommate told police, and said Downing had a history of sexual relationships with students from his classes.
The young man, who recently returned to Coeur d’Alene after being away at college, told police he was shocked to find the photos because he considered Downing – a man who reportedly let the roommate stay at the house for free – a friend. He told police he found photos of naked men in folders labeled with the men’s names, including his own. Detectives said they would like to talk to anyone who has lived in or spent time at Downing’s home in the past several years.
Downing has posted on Facebook in the past about letting young adults stay at his house if they’ve been kicked out of their parents home after “coming out.”
“Some of you may know, some may not. I’ve hosted three (lesbian and gay) individuals at my home over the past year for 2 weeks, 3 weeks, and 11 weeks,” Downing posted on Facebook in 2014. “I’m glad to be able to provide temporary shelter for 18+ newbies, but I can’t provide for everyone.”
Downing has also used the NIC Gender and Sexuality Alliance’s Facebook page to help homeless students find a place to live. He was listed as the page’s point of contact early Thursday, but his name has since been taken down.
NIC has suspended Downing pending the police investigation and the school’s personnel process. He has been banned from campus, according to the school.
“With an ongoing felony investigation and other personnel matters, we are limited in what we can share,” the school said in a statement. “But North Idaho College is committed to ensuring an environment that creates trust and safety for our students, employees, and our community.”
Downing, clad in a yellow jail suit, made his first appearance in Kootenai County District Court on Thursday. His attorney, John Redal, requested a $35,000 bond, which was granted by Judge Anna Eckhart.
“My client has been a resident here for 27 years, he owns his own home, his family resides here. He’s a full-time employee and has zero criminal history, so I think that’s an appropriate bond,” Redal told Eckhart.
Downing is the second NIC employee accused of a sex crime in three years. In 2015, former NIC financial aid director Joseph M. Bekken was charged with scheming to entice students to have sex with him in exchange for college aid.
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