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Sentencing delayed in massage voyeurism case

MIDDLEBURY — Addison County Superior Court Judge Alison Arms on Thursday postponed a sentencing hearing at Frank Mahady Courthouse for a former Middlebury massage therapist accused of videotaping female clients undressing at his 31 Court St. business and of possessing child pornography. She said a proposed plea agreement was not punitive enough.
Arms wrote in an Entry Order on Thursday that “the court is concerned about the sufficiency of the jail term” called for in the deal agreed to by former massage therapist Roger A. Schmidt, 57, of Middlebury; his attorney, Robert Keiner; and Addison County State’s Attorney Dennis Wygmans.
Wygmans told the Independent the judge focused on the jail-time “to serve portion” of the deal. He added that the parties couldn’t immediately reach a new agreement that would satisfy the judge before a half-day hearing that had been scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. on Thursday.
The exact deal that Judge Arms rejected wasn’t available from the state’s attorney or the court by press time on Friday.
The judge then granted Keiner’s request for a 30-day continuance, according to Arms’ Entry Order.
Wygmans said several of Schmidt’s victims, which investigators numbered at almost 30 at Schmidt’s Rogers Relaxing Massage Therapy LLC business, had planned to make statements at the hearing.
The next step will be a status conference, yet to be scheduled as of late last week, with Wygmans, Schmidt and his attorney, and the judge. If that does not produce a plea agreement satisfactory to all parties, Wygmans said a jury trial is a possibility in the case.
“We may not end up with a plea agreement at all,” he said.
The investigation of Schmidt’s crimes began after one alleged victim discovered on April 1, 2018, what she believed was evidence of a hidden camera in a dressing room at Schmidt’s business, followed by what she told police was suspicious behavior by Schmidt.
Middlebury Police Det. Kris Bowdish interviewed that victim on April 6, and on April 10 she obtained search warrants for Schmidt’s home, his business and his vehicle, according to court records. While executing the warrants on April 10, police seized items from Schmidt’s property that included an Apple iPad, a Lenovo ThinkPad computer, five USB drives, a Digital Spy Pen hidden camera and a cell phone, according to Bowdish’s affidavit.
Bowdish said she confirmed a USB charger seized from the business included a hidden camera. She stated in her affidavit the search yielded two other USB/hidden camera devices in a closet in the massage room.
A search of Schmidt’s Lenovo computer, according to authorities, revealed 70 video and picture files; Bristol Police Officer Josh Otey assisted with this phase of the investigation.
“We previewed most of the files and found them to contain videos of massage clients in (Schmidt’s) massage room at 31 Court St.,” Bowdish wrote in her affidavit. “The videos showed the clients either getting dressed at the end of a massage, or getting undressed prior to a massage.”
Investigators believe the videos did not reach the Internet.
Police said they initially found four computer files with names included in their labels. Each file contained a video of a female massage client in a state of undress, according to court records.
Bowdish found and interviewed the women depicted in those four computer files, according to court records. All were highly upset and several cried upon hearing they had been videotaped, according to Bowdish.
Bowdish later confirmed police discovered another 25 video files of other massage clients and a 30-second video of a naked young teenage girl being subjected to sadomasochistic abuse, according to court records.
Court documents detailing the charges against Schmidt show a repeated pattern of women clients being asked to wear minimal clothing and often to expose themselves during massage sessions. One complained of inappropriate touching.
Schmidt is alleged to have asked some of his victims to not wear their bras for their massage, according to court records, and some of the video footage shows Schmidt working on women patients with their breasts exposed.
According to court records:
•One of the victims told police she asked Schmidt to allow her to keep her breasts covered during a second visit, and she “could tell that Schmidt was disappointed,” according to court records.
•Another woman told police she decided to keep her bra and underwear on under her sheet during a second visit.
•Another victim told police she had been diagnosed with breast cancer, thus making Schmidt’s alleged infraction even more emotionally painful for her, according to court records.
•A few of the victims interviewed by Bowdish alleged that Schmidt removed — without asking — the sheet that covered their otherwise nude bodies.

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