BRATTLEBORO -- Todd Olcott had no criminal record to speak of before he switched on a camera and placed it in the bathroom heating register of a Londonderry home. But that one act led to a charge of voyeurism in June, a guilty plea in October and, on Wednesday, a sentence of eight months in prison followed by five years of probation.
Olcott, 37, was led from Windham Superior Court Criminal Division in handcuffs. While Olcott's attorney had argued for no jail term, Windham County Deputy State's Attorney David Gartenstein said the act demanded some amount of time behind bars.
"It really speaks to the gravity of the offense and the incredibly destructive nature of the crime," Gartenstein said. "(The victim) doesn't feel safe anymore, and that is a direct result of what the defendant did."
Vermont State Police said their investigation stemmed from the victim's report that, one night in late May after taking a shower, she noticed a small device with a blinking red light that had been placed in a heat register.
The victim, who was a juvenile, reported the device to a third party, who called police. The Reformer generally does not identify crime victims.
When confronted by the complainant, Olcott "denied the accusations or knowledge of a camera or cell phone," according to a police affidavit. Later, he produced a camera but said it was not his.
Subsequently, Olcott told the complainant that "he was sorry for making the recording .
State Police seized the video as evidence. In it, police said, Olcott can be seen planting the camera in the bathroom and later retrieving it.
In an interview with police, Olcott said "he had recently found the camera while going through some of his belongings. He charged the camera and decided to try it out."
Olcott also "advised he wanted to try something different but was not sure what he was going to use the video for after capturing it," police wrote.
About five months after pleading guilty, Olcott returned to Brattleboro on Wednesday for sentencing. The victim and her family were in the courtroom, but Gartenstein said they were too upset to speak directly to Judge David Suntag.
Instead, a brief, written statement from the victim's mother was read into the court record. She described the moment her daughter told her about discovering the camera.
"The look on her face was one I won't forget. She was so scared and confused," the statement said.
The victim's mother went on to say her daughter has had difficulty sleeping. The victim has blacked out windows in order to feel safe, the statement said.
Gartenstein previously had agreed to a sentence that would not exceed 20 to 24 months in prison, with that jail time suspended except for eight months that must be served. He asked Suntag to impose that term along with five years of probation and mandatory sex-offender treatment.
Defense attorney Mimi Brill called Thomas Powell, a Shelburne-based psychologist, to the stand to testify. Powell said he had examined Olcott and found that the defendant presents "low risk" for repeat offenses.
Olcott's actions may have been "impulsive and thoughtless, but they weren't predatory," Powell testified. He also said Olcott would benefit from treatment, which could happen outside prison. Powell said there is risk to placing men like the defendant among a prison population that may be far more antisocial, predatory and deviant.
"There is a certain contagion that goes with that," Powell testified.
Brill's recommendation of a three-year probationary term, with all jail time suspended, followed that testimony. She also read a statement from Olcott in which he addressed the victim and her family.
"I hope you can get over this and have a better future," the statement said. "I feel like counseling will help me a lot."
Suntag, after taking a brief break to consider the sentence, declared that "there has to be jail time."
The judge noted that voyeurism is a misdemeanor offense, but he said Olcott's conduct "takes away a sense of safety and security." There also was an element of calculation in Olcott's decision to place the camera in the bathroom, Suntag said.
"It's not as though this was just an accident," he said. "That's intentional. That's planning. It may not be long-term planning, but it's planning."
Mike Faher can be reached at email@example.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.