Cloquet peeping Tom sentenced; says he 'prays for relief' for his victims
Sixth District Judge Robert Macaulay quadrupled the recommended jail time Wednesday when he sentenced a Cloquet man who was caught peeping at his neighbor's juvenile daughter through her bedroom window.
Richard Allen Paul, 57, of Cloquet had pleaded guilty to "interference with privacy" and was sentenced Wednesday in State District Court in Carlton County in front of his victims, other neighbors and his own family.
The charge is a felony because the person whose privacy was violated was a minor.
Paul, who was director of Behavior Services for Essentia Health System in Duluth before he was arrested, made a statement apologizing to the Berg family, his neighbors and the community.
"Not a day goes by that I don't regret my actions," Paul told the court. "Not a day goes by that I don't pray for (the Berg family) that God gives them relief from the pain I gave to them."
B.J. Berg discovered Paul outside Berg's home at 11:30 p.m. on June 14, 2011, wearing a black ski mask, tan shirt and jeans while peering into a
bedroom window. When Berg confronted him, Paul said something about trying to find his dogs. Berg told him, "Not at my daughter's window, you're not'' and told him to get off his property.
Berg followed Paul to his home and called the police, who searched Paul's home and found night vision goggles, a ski mask, clothing and a loaded handgun. Paul admitted to police that he had a firearm on his hip when he was outside Berg's home.
In his victim impact statement, Berg talked about the close-knit nature of their rural Cloquet neighborhood, and how Paul had built trust with his neighbors and their children over the past 12 years.
"This whole ordeal has been a sad lesson for our kids and family to learn ... that you may not be able to trust the people you have grown to respect, and that your home may not be the safe haven you thought it was," Berg told the court, adding that his children haven't ventured down the road on their bikes to visit friends since then. "Some of their childhood innocence has been lost and their perception of safety in our home has been diminished."
Paul sat with his head down during most of Berg's statement, which his neighbor made to the court sitting at the same table.
Since his arrest, Paul has completed a residential addiction treatment program at Hazelden and is undergoing follow-up treatment, counseling and attending Alcoholics Anonymous.
Although defense attorney Stephen Zuber asked that the judge consider allowing Paul to serve the recommended jail time wearing an electronic monitor in his home, both Zuber and Paul stressed that Paul was there to take the consequences for his actions.
Neighbor Melissa Preteau read a letter she said had been circulated around the Hantz and Spring Lake Road neighborhood requesting no leniency for Paul and that he be given the harshest punishment under law.
"Until June 14, we all thought our neighborhood was a safe place to live," Preteau said. "We shared relationships built on honesty, trust and the belief that it takes a village to raise a child. Mr. Paul was a part of that trust. He would walk his dog; he was friendly; he had a pool that the neighborhood kids liked to swim in -- we had no idea what a monster he was."
Macaulay noted that Paul appeared to be "genuinely shamed, remorseful and interested in taking his life in a different direction," but said he agreed with Berg that Paul's actions that night were "bold, brazen and significantly victimized [Berg's] family and the community as a whole."
"I think there should be significantly greater jail sentence [than the 30 days recommended by probation officers], so I am imposing a sentence of 120 days in jail," Macaulay told the defendant.
The sentence, however, was a staggered sentence. The judge told Paul he was to serve the first 30 days in the Carlton County Law Enforcement Center starting immediately -- actually, only 16 days with credit for four days served and time for good behavior. Additional 30-day increments could be stayed provided Paul follows his 21 probation conditions.
As part of those conditions, Paul must enter and successfully complete sex offender treatment and individual counseling, attend AA three times a week and weekly aftercare for chemical dependence, and abstain from alcohol or any mood-altering drugs unless prescribed by a physician.
In addition, he must have no contact whatsoever with the Berg family nor go within 500 feet of their property, have no contact with any minor younger than 18 unless it's approved in advance by his probation officer, and not possess or access online any pornographic or sexually explicit materials.