About five minutes after they went into the basement, one of the men apparently pulled a cable from a camera in the rafters, causing the feed to an upstairs TV to go blank. Sheldon, incensed, later brought the videotape to the Hopkinton police, asking that charges be brought for destruction of property.
The police reviewed the tape, but rather than pursue a destruction of property charge they arrested Sheldon, alleging she illegally taped a conversation among three of the men while they were in the basement.
Sheldon insisted at the time she was innocent, saying the camera was “in plain view.” But the police had brought the tape to the attorney general’s office, which concluded there was probable cause to charge her with unauthorized interception of oral communication — a felony that carries a prison sentence of up to five years.
Armed with a search warrant, the police seized more than 300 videotapes, a computer, a videocassette recorder, a TV and 32 Instamatic cameras from the house Sheldon rented at 14 Aldrich St.