Updated: Cloquet man sentenced for invading privacy of minorRichard Allen Paul, 57, of Cloquet pleaded guilty and was sentenced in Carlton County District Court with “interference with privacy” Wednesday morning in front of his victims, other neighbors and his own family.
By: Jana Peterson, Pine Journal
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 daughters through a bedroom window.
Richard Allen Paul, 57, of Cloquet pleaded guilty and was sentenced in Carlton County District Court with “interference with privacy” Wednesday morning in front of his victims, other neighbors and his own family. The charge – a felony because the person whose privacy was violated was a minor – accuses Allen 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.
According to the criminal complaint, homeowner B.J. Berg discovered Paul outside Berg’s home at 11:30 p.m. June 14, 2011. Paul was wearing a black ski mask, tan shirt and jeans and crouched down on all fours 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, not knowing at the time the identity of the intruder.
Berg called the police and got in his car and followed Paul to his home, then realized who he was. Police arrived and searched Paul’s home and found the ski mask, clothing and a loaded handgun – Paul admitted to police he had a firearm on his hip at the time he was outside Berg’s home – as well as night vision goggles.
That was nine months ago. Since then, Paul has completed a 60-day residential addiction treatment program at Hazelden and is undergoing follow-up treatment, counseling and attending Alcoholics Anonymous.
In his victim impact statement, Berg talked about the close-knit nature of their rural Cloquet neighborhood, and how Paul had built up 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, who was director of Behavior Services for Essentia Health 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.”
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 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.”
Preteau said Paul’s actions had made parents all over the neighborhood question their own judgment.
Trish King said after the hearing that Paul was a member of the neighborhood “family” before this happened.
“It hit us twice as hard because we’re such a close neighborhood,” she said.
In his statement, Berg also asked that Paul serve punitive time in jail, in addition to undergoing all recommended treatment for both his drinking and his behavioral issues.
“In talking with mental health professionals, having him so close to the house is a very advanced stage of progressive behavior,” Berg said. “As parents, we are constantly revisiting that evening and wondering, what was his intent? What would have been his next progressive step, if not for being caught?”
Paul sat with his head down during most of Berg’s statement, which his neighbor made to the court sitting at the same table.
After all the statements were made and read, Macaulay addressed the case. He 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 a 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, is 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 – and additional 30-day increments could be stayed provided Paul followed his 21 probation conditions. Paul will have to appear in court approximately every six months so the judge can verify that he is meeting all the terms of his probation. If not, even if it’s a “technical violation,” Macaulay said he will have to serve another 30 days.
As part of his probation conditions, Paul must:
+ Enter and successfully complete sex offender treatment;
+ Enter and complete individual counseling as directed and continue until no longer recommended;
+ Have no contact whatsoever with the Berg family or go within 500 feet of their property;
+ Have no contact whatsoever with any minor under the age or 18 unless it’s approved in advance by his probation officer;
+ Attend AA three times a week;
+ Continue treatment program at Hazelden;
+ Attend weekly aftercare for chemical dependence;
+ Not possess or access online any pornographic or sexually explicit materials;
+ Abstain from alcohol or any mood-altering drugs unless prescribed by a physician.
Berg said the longer jail sentence came as a surprise, because the sentencing worksheet completed by probation had recommended only 30 days.
He was pleased with Judge Macaulay’s sentence.
“Basically Mr. Paul has to continually prove to the court and the community that he’s taking the recommended actions or there are consequences,” Berg said after the sentencing. “Our biggest hope is that he continues to get the help he needs and doesn’t reoffend. Because I don’t want our family or anyone in the greater community to have to deal with something like this again.”