Friday, February 29, 2008

Hailey men get probation for voyeurism

Men recorded cell phone images of naked 13-year-old girl

Express Staff Writer

Three Hailey men have been placed on probation for three years each for using their cell phone cameras to record images of a 13-year-old girl dancing nude.

The terms of their probations will vary, however, depending upon their culpability in the crime.

Sentence was pronounced Tuesday afternoon in Blaine County 5th District Court for Joshua Charon Jones, 20, John Paul Silvia, 19, and Skylar K. Vollmer, 18. All three men had pleaded guilty to a felony charge of video voyeurism, an offense punishable in Idaho by up to five years in prison.

The charges date to April 30 when the girl performed a striptease and danced for the men at Jones' apartment on Shenandoah Drive in the Woodside area of Hailey. They were arrested about a week later after the Hailey Police Department and the Blaine County Sheriff's Office learned of the incident and initiated a joint investigation.

It was not specified in court Tuesday which of the cell phone recordings were shown to another Hailey man who sexually assaulted the girl the day after the images were recorded. However, information presented during Tuesday's court hearing indicated that neither Jones nor Silvia showed the images they recorded to anyone else.

Court records state that the other man, 18-year-old Uriah Zamir Crain, was shown images of the girl dancing nude. On May 1 he located her in downtown Hailey, followed her into a public restroom and sexually assaulted her.

Crain, who was initially charged with lewd conduct with a minor child under 16, an offense punishable in Idaho by up to life in prison, pleaded guilty earlier this month to felony injury to a child and misdemeanor battery. As part of a plea agreement, the Blaine County Prosecuting Attorney's Office will recommend that Crain be sentenced to 10 years in prison, with three of them to be served before he is eligible for parole. Sentencing is scheduled for May 5.

District Court Judge Randy J. Stoker served as presiding judge for the case against Jones, Silvia and Vollmer. Stoker, who normally serves in Twin Falls County, was assigned the case following several judge disqualification motions filed by the prosecuting attorney's office or by defense attorneys.

In addition to probation, Stoker sentenced each man to a five-year suspended prison sentence, with three years to be served before any of them would be eligible for parole. Stoker warned the defendants that he will reinstate the prison sentences if they fail to meet the conditions of their probations.

All three men were ordered not to have unsupervised contact with girls under the age of 18. Stoker made exceptions for family members or for girls the men may encounter at their places of employment. They were further ordered not to use alcohol or illegal drugs.

None of the defendants will be required to register as sex offenders.

Neither the victim nor her family attended the hearing.

Joshua Charon Jones

Information presented at sentencing indicated that Jones was the least culpable of the three defendants.

"It's quite easy to say he made a bad decision," said Prosecuting Attorney Jim Thomas. "He made a good decision and deleted it and has been cooperative."

Stoker described Jones as "a young man who does not have a criminal record."

"You were confronted with a situation that was not of your making—it came to your house," the judge said. "You did make the right choice—you certainly don't circulate pictures like that. I don't think you're a predator by any means. I think that if you hadn't been drinking that night that you wouldn't be here talking to me today."

Stoker granted Jones a withheld judgment, which means the conviction can be erased from his record if he successfully meets the terms of his probation.

"I just wanted to say that when this happened I wasn't thinking and got caught in the moment," Jones told the court.

Jones was represented by Hailey attorney Douglas Nelson.

John Paul Silvia

Silvia was held to be more culpable than Jones because he retained images of the girl on his cell phone.

"We don't have any evidence that he shared them with anyone," Thomas said.

Silvia was represented by public defender Douglas Werth, who described his client as "a young man with a lot of promise."

"It has really been a pleasure to represent John in this case," Werth said. "He has taken responsibility for his actions. He did not initiate that action but he did take some photographs on his cell phone."

Silvia was a Wood River High School student at the time of his arrest. Werth said his client, who was in "foster care for three years," is now enrolled in high school in Twin Falls.

Silvia was also granted a withheld judgment. Stoker made completion of high school a condition of Silvia's probation and sentenced him to 150 hours of community service.

"You have no significant record—you have been law abiding all of your life," Stoker told the defendant. "The fact is you did commit a crime. Those who accept the responsibility for what they do are on the road to not repeating it."

Skylar K. Vollmer

Information presented in court indicated that Vollmer was the most culpable of the three defendants. He brought the victim to Jones' apartment and was dating her at the time. He was 17, but turned 18 a few days later.

Stoker mentioned that Vollmer has also pleaded guilty in juvenile court to a charge of injury to a child. Juvenile court records are not available to the public and it was not clear whether that charge is related to the victim in the video recording case or to another girl.

Thomas said Vollmer has had several other brushes with the law, including a gun hoax threat at Wood River High School, an unlawful entry and previous charges involving underage girls.

He recommended that Vollmer be sentenced to 180 days, a sentence usually referred to as a "rider," at the North Idaho Correctional Institution in Cottonwood.

"There's kind of a thread that goes through his life and that's a fixation with pornography," Thomas said. "It appears to me that there's a history of poor choices, even though he has a very good family."

Vollmer was represented by Nampa attorney Dennis P. Wilkinson, who pointed out that a psychosexual evaluation determined that Vollmer is "not sexually deviant, should not be considered a violent sexual predator and has a normal interest in sexual activity."

"Incarceration could exacerbate his problems, not help him," said Wilkinson.

Vollmer briefly addressed the court. "I can't apologize enough for what I did," he said. "I know it was wrong and I would like to apologize to my family and my friends."

Stoker decided not to send Vollmer to the Cottonwood facility, but ordered him to undergo treatment during his probation for pornography as it relates to Vollmer's interest in underage girls. He was also ordered to register for a "cognitive change" program and to not use computers that have access to pornography sites.

"I'm going to take the chance with you, Mr. Vollmer," Stoker said. "If you are on this judge's probation, there is zero tolerance, because we won't be talking about the rider program. You'll be going to the state pen."

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