Inappropriate photos of female shoppers result in maximum sentence for Big Stone Gap man

Rain Smith • Jul 17, 2018 at 1:52 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — A Southwest Virginia man who netted multiple arrests for snapping inappropriate photos of women at Kingsport stores — and was smacked in the mouth by one victim he also groped — will spend at least three years in jail.

On Monday in Sullivan County Criminal Court, David Eric Lambert, 38, was found guilty of attempt to commit unlawful photographing in violation of privacy. He will be sentenced on the charge next month and faces up to six months in jail.

That time will be on top of two years, 11 months and 27 days that he began serving last week. That sentence is related to a pair of previous convictions for unlawful photography at city businesses, along with one count of attempted aggravated sexual battery.

All of the incidents occurred over a period of two weeks in February and March of 2016. According to the Kingsport Police Department, the first complaint was from Hobby Lobby on North Eastman Road.

Two female shoppers noticed a man recording them on his phone. In response, one victim snapped a photo of the suspect, later identified by police as Lambert, and posted a warning about his behavior on social media.

That posting elicited reports of similar activity, alleging that Lambert followed and photographed or filmed women at other city businesses. Warrants for six counts of stalking were obtained against Lambert, and he was arrested on March 3 at his home in Big Stone Gap. A Sullivan County grand jury later amended the charges to unlawful photography.

Just two weeks after that initial arrest, police were alerted to another incident involving Lambert. A female patron of Dollar Tree on West Stone Drive noticed Lambert standing behind her, then stepped aside to let him pass in the aisle. Instead, he moved directly behind her.

The victim told police that she then turned to see Lambert filming her with a cell phone that was held down to her buttocks. When she tried to walk away, Lambert allegedly grabbed her buttocks and stated, “Nice ass.”

“In self-defense, she turned and struck him in the mouth with some merchandise she was carrying,” stated a Kingsport Police Department press release. “The man then fled the scene on foot toward another nearby business.”

Lambert was arrested four days later. He was also later charged with unlawful photography of a woman at a city Walmart.

Sullivan County Assistant District Attorney Emily Smith prosecuted the cases. She said the guilty verdicts — and maximum sentencing imposed by Judge James Goodwin — wouldn’t have been possible without the bravery of the victims who testified.

“It was not easy for them, but they wanted to do it to make sure that the defendant did not do this to other women in the future,” Smith told the Times News.

Once Lambert serves his sentence, he will be required to register as a sex offender.

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