Arrested Sept. 4, University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine professor Don A. Samuelson, MS, PhD, 65, has confessed to secretly viewing and recording video of female students for his amusement, entertainment, sexual arousal or gratification. A search warrant executed at Samuelson’s office Sept. 6 revealed a camera pen with an integrated USB thumb drive on which the recordings were stored.
Two victims were identified in recordings dating between April and August 2013. The arrest report states that on or about April 10 and on or about April 17, Samuelson intentionally used an imaging device without the victim’s knowledge or consent to view her body or undergarments. The device was directed toward the gap between the student’s chest and the V-neck of her shirt. On or about June 6, Samuelson again used the imaging device to record a student’s chest area. On Aug. 30, the arrest report alleges, Samuelson again recorded video of a student’s chest area and the victim’s upper inner thighs normally concealed by her dress.
Samuelson claimed ownership of the camera pen after it was found in his office at the college. His face and voice were recorded in several of the videos stored on the camera pen. The videos were made at the UF College of Veterinary Medicine without the consent or prior knowledge of most of the victims. The woman recorded Aug. 30, however, became aware of the videotaping as it occurred, prompting the investigation.
Samuelson is charged with four counts of sex offense, two involving video voyeurism and two involving attempted video voyeurism. The charges are considered third-degree felonies in the state of Florida and involve potential imprisonment for up to five years and a fine of up to $5,000. More charges may be forthcoming as the investigation continues.
The arrest report states that the camera pen was recovered in close proximity to thumb drives containing numerous pornographic images. The camera pen’s USB drive also contained several other videos of women working in Samuelson’s laboratory or meeting with him in his office. Samuelson admitted to investigators Sept. 9 that he used the camera pen to take videos under one of the victim’s clothing. “Samuelson claimed that he was attempting to gather proof that [she] was not wearing undergarments because he thought it was inappropriate,” the arrest report states. Investigators asked Samuelson to account for the times he directed the camera pen at students’ breasts. “Samuelson acknowledged that this activity was ‘inappropriate.’”
Samuelson was released on bond shortly after his arrest, and the university placed him on administrative leave Sept. 6. “He was placed on administrative leave as soon as we learned of the allegations against him,” says Assistant Vice President of media Relations and Public Affairs Janine Sikes. The university has also banned Samuelson from campus. Sikes says that in situations of a serious nature, the university deems termination the appropriate course of action.
Samuelson has been a professor at the college since 1978 and taught veterinary histology—a class required for all first-year veterinary students—and introduction to ophthalmology in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences. Sikes says no formal discipline had ever been imposed on Samuelson prior to his arrest. However, she did say the university issued a counseling letter about “some angry behavior he displayed in 2001.” Also, Samuelson was anonymously accused of having an affair with a nontraditional veterinary student in 2006, but the allegations were not substantiated, Sikes says. Consensual relationships between adults are not against UF policy but are considered a potential conflict of interest.
Samuelson’s classes have temporarily been taken over by other faculty members until a replacement is found. “Students with research projects involving Dr. Samuelson will be assigned different advisors and we will work to ensure these projects continue as smoothly as possible,” Sikes says. The university has offered counseling to anyone affected by the incidents.