CHICAGO (WLS) -- In a ruling that was being watched for potential impact on other criminal cases, a Cook County judge on Wednesday ordered the so-called tanning salon rapist to unlock his cell phone so state investigators can access certain text messages.
The texts between accused serial rapist Marc Winner and one of his alleged victims are considered crucial evidence in the case but have been inaccessible to investigators since Winner was arrested on September 30, 2015. Authorities have had the telephone since then but Winner, 46, has fought efforts to have him unlock the device.
Judge Carol M. Howard ordered that Winner put his password into the phone so investigators can gather text messages between Aug. 21-23, 2015. He allegedly communicated with one of his accusers during that time period.
Defense attorney Steven J. Weinberg had argued that providing the passcode would violate Winner's 5th Amendment rights. Under the ruling, Winner will not turn over his personal code-but will input the code to unlock the phone.
"We don't look at this necessarily as a win for our client but this is an issue that involves privacy interests for everyone" Weinberg told the I-Team.
Judge Howard did side with Winner in denying a government request to also search for pictures of naked women that a friend of Winner's told the state about in 2016. She said the state did not prove there is reliable evidence that the pictures actually exist. Howard said she would not allow a "fishing expedition" on Winner's phone.
The next court date is July 5th. At that time Winner will apparently unlock the cell phone and evidence technicians will be on hand to attempt to gather the specific text messages.
Winner is free on bond and exited the courthouse while attempting to hide from ABC7's camera.
Cook County prosecutors say Winner attacked at least nine women the past 16 years-although he is charged in only four of the sexual assault cases in 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2015. Three of his alleged victims were employees or customers at Winner's now-shuttered tanning salon in Chicago's West Loop.
Judge Howard has not yet ruled on whether 2001 suburban battery victim Lesley Barton can testify as a witness to Winner's other alleged crimes. As the I-Team first reported in April, 2016 Barton says Winner attacked her after several drinks at a nearby bar.
In an interview last year, Barton told the I-Team that Winner picked her up and threw her onto a tanning bed.
"He's pulling down my pants as I'm pulling them up and I'm pulling at his hand and the fog is getting stronger and stronger. I kept saying 'no, no means no.' And I'm certain he's going to kill me," said Barton. "I do recall being raped, I just don't recall how much time it was," Barton said.
Winner was arrested on suspicion of criminal sexual assault in that case, but later convicted of a reduced charge of battery and given a sentence of probation.
Judge orders accused serial rapist Marc Winner to unlock phone
ABC7 I-Team Investigation