N.Y. man convicted of hiding camera in Dalton park bathroom, recording 18 people

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PITTSFIELD — It took about three hours for a Berkshire County jury to convict a man of deliberately hiding a recording device inside the restroom of a Dalton park in the fall of 2014 and captured video of nearly 20 people, including a four-year-old child, who used that facility.

Sam Wassilie, 39, who has addresses in New York and Pittsfield, was found guilty of multiple counts of photographing an unsuspecting nude person and photographing the sexual parts of a child.

Testimony in his trial concluded Wednesday. Wassilie did not take the stand and his attorney, Edmund St. John III did not call any witnesses.

Jurors heard closing arguments and began their deliberations Thursday.

The 15 guilty verdicts were delivered about 2:30 Thursday afternoon. Wassilie showed no reaction as they were read.

He was ordered held without bail, pending a sentencing hearing, the date of which was not immediately set.

Wassilie was convicted of secretly placing a video recording device in one of the restrooms of Pinegrove Park in September or October of 2014 and recording about 18 people using that toilet.

Eight adult witnesses who testified in the trial Wednesday all watched video clips in court of themselves or their children using the facilities and all agreed that they were unaware that they were being recorded and did not give consent for those recordings to be made.

In her closing argument, Assistant Berkshire District Attorney Rachel Eramo said many of the people in those videos were not able to be identified and are likely still unaware they were recorded while using the bathroom.

According to court testimony, Wassilie came to the attention of local authorities in October 2015, after a cellphone was discovered in a public restroom in New York state and turned over to police.

The phone was wrapped in paper with its lens exposed. An examination of the phone found a recording of footage from inside that restroom, and Wassilie was identified as the phone's owner.

Wassilie was interviewed by New York State Police and, at first, said his phone had been lost, but then admitted he had placed the phone in the restroom and set it to record.

According to testimony, Wassilie said he did so because he was curious.

Police also obtained search warrants for Wassilie's home and laptop computer, which was sent to a New York crime lab for forensic examination.

Two videos were apparently found on that laptop, copies of which were sent to New York State Police.

In his closing argument, St. John raised questions whether Wassilie was in fact, the man whose image was seen preparing the device at the beginning of the video. He also atried to raise doubt whether the two videos apparently filmed in Pinegrove park were actually retrieved from the laptop turned over to a New York State Police crime lab.

Eramo noted three of the witnesses testified they knew Wasillie prior to his being charged and identified him as the man in a series of still images culled from the beginning of one of the videos.

Eramo told jurors Wasillie spent the better part of the first two minutes of one of the videos disguising the device, keeping its lens clear and deliberately placing it in a specific spot across from the commode in order to get the video he wanted.

That deliberateness negated any theory that the recording was the result of some kind of accident or was without intent, Eramo said.

The videos each were about 20 minutes long, and each showed about nine people using the restroom.

Based on visual cues in the videos, including clothing identifying youth football teams from Pittsfield and Dalton, it was determined that the video was shot in that area.

A check with the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles also showed that Wassilie has a Massachusetts license and a Pittsfield address.

Deanna Strout, a sexual assault investigator with Dalton Police, was contacted and provided with copies of the videos.

Strout recognized about eight of the people in those videos through her personal experience, and she contacted them. All of them confirmed they were the people in those recordings.

Based on information in the videos, Strout determined that they were likely made in September or October 2014 at Pinegrove Park, because that is where and when those two teams played against each other that season.

In all, Wassilie was convicted of ten counts of videotaping people people who were nude or partially nude and five counts of videotaping sexual parts of children under 18.

The investigation was conducted by members of the Dalton Police Department.

Bob Dunn can be reached at bdunn@berkshireeagle.com, at @BobDunn413 on Twitter and 413-496-6249.


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