A Charlottesville man now faces five years behind bars after pleading guilty Wednesday to placing hidden cameras to film women naked and to possessing child pornography.
John Michael Garvis, 29, pleaded guilty in Albemarle County Circuit Court during a brief hearing. Garvis was arrested in May 2020 following a two-month investigation by the county police into a hidden camera found in an acquaintance’s house.
As part of a plea agreement, Garvis pleaded guilty to six counts of misdemeanor non-consensual filming of undressed persons, two felony counts of intercepting wire communication and two felony counts of possessing child pornography. Per the agreement, the commonwealth will not seek a sentence longer than five years, though a judge may opt to sentence Garvis more harshly.
Following Garvis’ guilty plea, Albemarle Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Jordan McKay outlined some of the evidence against Garvis.
According to McKay, the cameras were located by a female victim and acquaintance of Garvis in March 2020. The camera was designed to look like a smoke detector but included remote access and a micro SD slot for video storage.
The female victim filed a police report and implicated Garvis as a suspect, sharing that he had a crush on her. According to McKay, Garvis later admitted to the county police that he placed the camera, which he had access to view from his mobile phone.
A second hidden camera device was also located in Garvis’ home and contained nude images of his then-girlfriend, whom McKay said had also not consented to being videotaped.
The cameras not only captured video, but also audio, McKay said, and audio from phone calls from the victim resulted in the two felony counts of intercepting wire communication.
When conducting a search of Garvis’ belongings, McKay said investigators uncovered two videos of child pornography on a Samsung flash drive. These videos contained scenes of young girls being raped and assaulted and were found on a device also containing Garvis’ personal files, indicating the flash drive belonged to him.
Following McKay’s summary of the commonwealth’s evidence, Garvis’ attorney, Lloyd Snook, explained a slight disagreement with the two felony counts of intercepting wire communication for which Garvis pleaded guilty.
According to Snook, his client had not been affirmatively intending to record the conversations, which, he argued, could be grounds for dispute in a different case. However, referencing statute sections shown to him by the commonwealth, Snook said this defense did not apply to these charges.
“I’m saying this now so someone doesn’t say later, ‘Oh that lousy lawyer, he wasted a great defense,’” said Snook, a member of the Charlottesville City Council.
Because Garvis is currently attending weekly therapy for sex offenders, Judge Claude Worrell allowed his sentencing to be delayed until the sessions conclude.
Garvis is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 8.