By JOHN BURNETT
Tribune-Herald staff writer
A 31-year-old Hilo man has been sentenced to jail for two “peeping Tom” incidents that took place in late 2011.
On Tuesday, Hilo Circuit Judge Glenn Hara sentenced Paul Waathmad to three months in jail — with all but 15 days stayed — plus one year probation and 100 hours of community service. In a deal with prosecutors, Waathmad pleaded no contest to two counts of second-degree violation of privacy, a misdemeanor. He had originally been charged with one count of second-degree violation of privacy and second-degree unauthorized entry to a dwelling, a Class C felony punishable by up to five years in prison.
Both offenses occurred at the Hilo Tropical Gardens Hostel in Keaukaha. On Nov. 6, 2011, Waathmad came onto the property and peered into the window as a 27-year-old woman changed her clothes. A week later, he pulled back a shower curtain at the hostel as a 57-year-old woman took a shower.
Trish Owens, the hostel’s owner, told the judge that Waathmad “should be punished for what he has done.”
“It has affected my business,” she said. “… I’ve hired a night watchman; I’ve put up cameras around my place. I’ve had … countless sleepless nights, walked around with a flashlight checking every door, checking every window. And I don’t want him to forget what he’s done because I know I’ll never forget it.”
Waathmad’s attorney, Deputy Public Defender Belinda Castillo Hall, argued for no jail time and a deferred acceptance of Waathmad’s plea, so his conviction could be erased if he stays out of further trouble with the law while on probation. She described her client, who is originally from Yap, Federated States of Micronesia, as “a victim of circumstance” who was “caught up in a maelstrom of hysteria.”
“In this case, he was being portrayed as a pervert. But he’s not a pervert, your Honor,” she said. “He’s an unsophisticated, not-well-conversant person in the English language. He’s ill-equipped to respond to these allegations, and that’s the reason why I’m here to speak on his behalf. Mr. Waathmad is not a pervert, and Judge, you can take that to the bank.”
Castillo Hall also suggested that Waathmad wasn’t guilty, but took the plea deal because he feared deportation if convicted of a felony.
“He doesn’t want to jeopardize his prospect of remaining here in Hawaii, because he’s grateful for the opportunity that he’s been presented and provided,” she said. “And he doesn’t want to jeopardize those opportunities for himself and for his family. … He wants to raise his daughter in this community.”
Deputy Prosecutor Lucas Burns argued that Waathmad should be sentenced to 180 days in jail and 250 hours of community service.
“Your Honor, Ms. Castillo Hall says that Mr. Waathmad is not a pervert. However, the state begs to differ,” he said. “Mr. Waathmad was spying on a young woman changing her clothing and he was also peeping in on a lady taking a shower at the Hilo Tropical Gardens Hostel, which is why the state is requesting that the court order sex offender treatment for Mr. Waathmad.”
Hara ordered Waathmad to undergo substance abuse assessment and treatment, if deemed necessary, but not sex offender treatment.
“Mr. Burns, if you want to charge him with an offense that requires sex offender treatment, then you should charge him with it,” the judge said.
Waathmad, through a Yapese interpreter, apologized to Owens and the court.
“I didn’t understand the things that happened,” he said. “I didn’t understand the rules and the laws of the state. Whatever punishment I’m given, I will deal with it.”
The judge denied Waathmad’s request for a plea deferral.
“The court finds that you are likely to again engage in a criminal course of conduct,” Hara said. “The welfare of society and the interest of justice demand you suffer the penalties imposed by law.”
Email John Burnett at email@example.com.