Essentia director charged in Cloquet peeping incidentCARLTON — The director of Behavior Services for Essentia Health in Duluth is accused of wearing a black ski mask and a gun on his hip while peeking into the bedroom of a Cloquet girl near his home.
By: Mark Stodghill, Duluth News Tribune
CARLTON — The director of Behavior Services for Essentia Health in Duluth is accused of wearing a black ski mask and a gun on his hip while peeking into the bedroom of a Cloquet girl near his home.
Richard Allen Paul, 57, of Cloquet was charged Friday in Carlton County District Court with “interference with privacy.” The felony crime accuses Paul of intentionally intruding upon or interfering with the privacy of a member of a household and wrongfully interfering with the privacy of a member of the household.
Carlton County Attorney Thom Pertler, who charged the case, said the crime is a felony because the person whose privacy was violated is a minor.
Paul appeared in court wearing an orange Carlton County Jail jumpsuit and handcuffs. He is being represented by Superior defense attorney Stephen Zuber.
“I’m not at liberty at this juncture to discuss anything,” Zuber said after the hearing.
A spokeswoman at Essentia Health confirmed Paul’s position with the health-care provider. She said that Paul has been on leave since Monday, a day before the incident. And that he’s been in the position — in which he oversees all inpatient and outpatient behavior services — since 2002.
Sixth Judicial District Judge Robert Macaulay set bail at $25,000, but ordered that a probation officer study whether Paul qualifies for supervised release. The court ordered that the defendant have no contact with the alleged victim or victims, or any other minor children in the neighborhood.
The defendant has no prior criminal record, according to a probation officer, who addressed the court.
The owner of the home that Paul is accused of peeping into said he has been a neighbor of the defendant for about 12 years. He said the incident has been a “very traumatic experience for us.”
“My wife and I are very concerned for the safety of our family, especially our children,” said B.J. Berg, an elementary school principal. “The sanctity of our home and neighborhood has been violated. I know I can’t speak for anyone else, but I personally highly respected and trusted this individual. I viewed him as a model neighbor and someone I considered to be a friend.
“That’s no longer the case. I feel the media and especially the public need to be well informed about this individual and his actions on the night of June 14.”
According to the criminal complaint:
Berg went outside his home about 11:30 p.m. that night to turn off his lawn sprinkler. He saw a man wearing a black ski mask, tan shirt and jeans peering into a minor daughter’s bedroom window. He said the man immediately began to walk away. Berg asked him what he was doing.
The man 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 got into his vehicle and followed him as he waited for police to arrive. When they approached Paul’s address at 736 Hantz Road, the man took off his ski mask and Berg immediately recognized him as Paul. Cloquet police arrived and knocked on Paul’s door. He refused to answer it, the complaint alleges. The officers began to prepare a search warrant, but were eventually able to get the defendant to come to the door.
Police said that Paul told them he had merely been looking for his dogs. He denied wearing a ski mask, but admitted he had a firearm on his hip at the time he was at the alleged victims’ home.
Cloquet detectives found a loaded handgun under Paul’s bed. They also located the boots, jeans, shirt and ski mask he was described to have been wearing. They also found night vision goggles.
The Bergs said they had seen Paul when they were coming home from a family event about 10:30 that night, but he didn’t have his dogs with him. They had a brief conversation in which the defendant said he was merely getting some exercise. They thought that was unusual because Paul usually had his dogs with him when walking on Hantz Road.
Two girls in the home had been sleeping in the same bedroom because one of the girls had been having problems sleeping after hearing strange noises outside her window for the past month and she was afraid to sleep in the room by herself.
According to the “Governing Council Biographies for Section for Psychiatric and Substance Abuse Services” posted on an American Hospital Association website, before joining Essentia, Paul was managing partner in psychiatry for MeritCare Health System in Fargo, and director of behavioral health services at Allina Health System United Hospital in St. Paul.
Paul’s neighbor Richard Hantz, who has lived on Hantz Road for 60 years, said since Paul has lived across the street, Hantz has never seen him do anything out of the ordinary.
“What I do know of him is he was a heck of a nice guy,” Hantz said. “When my daughter was going to college, he offered to try to get her a job at St. Mary’s. As far as I know he never bothered anybody. He’s a very friendly fellow.”