Attorney: Shop owner innocent

By Joe Beck

FRONT ROYAL — Carson Thomas Boita’s attorney declared Thursday her client is an innocent man as police continued to investigate a complaint that someone placed a hidden camera in the unisex restroom of Boita’s Happy Creek Coffee and Tea shop.

Whoever placed the camera in the restroom, it wasn’t her client, Nancie Williams said.

“He is offering a $1,500 reward for any information that can lead to the arrest and prosecution of who did it,” Williams said. “He is encouraging anyone to come forward to the police or Crime Solvers because he as much as anyone wants to know who did this to his business.”

Police executed two search warrants after a customer reported to them that he had discovered a camera in the wall of the restroom, removed the device, and presented it to Boita.

The first search warrant led to the seizure of a wireless camera, a wooden board with a metal bracket to hold it in place, an Apple desktop computer, and black tape. Search warrant documents state the tape bore tear marks “similar” to those found on a piece of tape found on the camera. Cords attached to a USB port in Boita’s desk were also seized, according to search warrant documents.

The second search warrant, executed Oct. 24, involved a DNA swab taken from Boita. Police are awaiting the results of forensic lab tests being done on items they obtained during the searches.

No one has been charged in the case.

Williams said police have focused on her client to the exclusion of other possibilities.

“My take on it is that the police got a complaint, they jumped to a conclusion, and they investigated based on that false conclusion rather than what the situation is,” Williams said.

Sgt. Crystal Cline, who has been involved in the Front Royal police investigation of Happy Creek, refused to comment Thursday on Williams’ criticisms.

Williams did not contest police findings that a hidden camera had been placed in the restroom.

She said someone hoping to hurt Happy Creek’s business would have had a motive for placing the camera in the restroom. The possibilities include someone hoping to start up a similar business or someone hoping to buy Happy Creek from Boita.

Williams said she found it “odd” that the customer who discovered the camera in the restroom was carrying tools to remove it from the wall before giving the device to Boita.

She said the customer reported the incident to police within a few minutes and before Boita had a chance to do so.

When police visited the coffee shop, Boita refused to allow them to search the business without a warrant.

“We advised him against consenting to the search of his business,” Williams said, adding that her client “has a right to protect himself and his business.”

“I would expect any citizen or business to do the same,” Williams said. “I would never advise my client to consent to a search of anything.”

Williams said she was encouraged that customers were trickling in and out of Happy Creek on Wednesday afternoon. She described it as a lucrative and popular business since its opening in September 2013.

“That’s the good part of our town,” Williams said. “They have faith in the people here.”

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com