An Oklahoma man has received the distinction of being the first “john” in the state to be criminally prosecuted and arrested after being caught in the act by a drone. Local police records show Douglas Blansett, 75, was arrested and released on Thursday. That’s according to local anti-prostitution Oklahoma City-based activist and private investigator Brian Bates, who has run JohnTV.com for years, a collection of videos of suspected sex workers and their johns.
It was Bates’ drone that earlier this year took video of what he believed was a man picking up a woman named Amanda Zolicoffer that he described as a “known prostitute.” Both Blansett and Zolicoffer now face a misdemeanor charge of “engaging in an act of lewdness.”
Footage of the bust, which took place in March 2015, was first posted in August 2015.
“She’s a prolific presence on South Robinson,” Bates told Ars, referring to Zollicoffer.
Bates described the neighborhood south of the Oklahoma River as a low-income area that is a hotbed of prostitution. He claimed that since beginning to turn up with his video camera and drone—which he has not flown as part of a bust since—that streetwalking has fallen noticeably.
In the video, Bates appears to be driving a car, following not only the john’s car, but also another car that he believes may belong to the prostitute’s pimp. He tails both vehicles to a tire yard. Concerned that the lookout car may include a “violent pimp,” Bates pulls over and launches his drone.
At the 4:06 minute of the video, Bates’ drone begins its flight, quickly finding a white pickup truck. The drone lowers itself to near the windshield. After a few moments, the clothed male driver, who had been leaning over onto someone sitting in the passenger seat, seems to notice, and he sits back down and drives away.
A local district attorney, Scott Rowland, who did not immediately respond to Ars’ request for comment, told News 9 that it’s perfectly legal for private citizens to take footage via drone and turn it over to the police. “When a civilian uses a drone and then provides the video to law enforcement, there are no search and seizure or other Constitutional issues, because the Constitution does not protect against the actions of private persons—only government actors,” Rowland said.
Zollicoffer has pleaded not guilty and has a court date set for December 9, 2016. Similarly, Blansett has pleaded not guilty and has a court date set for January 7, 2016.