… Second sexual abuse conviction in Howard County that did not involve touching …
By Kellie Woodhouse
A North Laurel man and former Laurel City police officer admitted to secretly filming a 15-year-old girl partially undress, but said it did not constitute sexual child abuse.
Howard County Circuit Court Judge Diane O. Leasure disagreed and found Edward Charles Schmitt, 38, guilty of sexually abusing a minor during a court hearing on Friday afternoon.
“The video showed her (in) underwear,” Leasure said. “Mr. Schmitt exploited the victim.”
Leasure’s ruling marks the second finding of sexual abuse that did not involve touching in Howard County in less than a year. In September, a Bryant Woods Elementary School teacher’s aide was found guilty of sexual abuse after writing dozens of love letters to a third-grade student.
Schmitt admitted hiding a small camera in the closet of his live-in girlfriend’s daughter, masturbating in view of the camera and then leaving it in the closet to capture the girl dressing after a shower.
Schmitt faces up to nine years in prison and will be sentenced April 7. However, he also has been indicted by a federal grand jury for three counts of illegally receiving and possessing child pornography and is on a 24-hour electronic monitoring system.
“He’s treating it as his personal sex den,” state prosecutor Lisa Broten said of the 15-year-old’s bedroom. “This was a place where she felt safe and secure.”
To be found guilty of sexual child abuse in Maryland, a perpetrator either has to molest or exploit a minor. Broten said that while Schmitt did not molest the victim, secretly placing the camera in her room was an act of exploitation.
“Edward Schmitt wanted to see (the victim) naked,” Broten said. “I don’t think there is any other logical explanation that you could come to.”
The Howard County Times does not name victims of sex crimes.
But defense attorney James Papirmeister said that the sexual abuse charge was too serious of an offense to characterize Schmitt’s actions and that the state could not prove Schmitt intended to exploit the victim.
While Broten contended that the lewd act was evidence of Schmitt’s intent to exploit the victim, Papirmeister suggested that Schmitt was fulfilling a sexual fantasy and did not intend to actually tape the child. He also said that there was no evidence the victim had knowledge that she was videotaped.
“We’ve all seen movies that involved animals and we’ve all seen that disclaimer ‘No animal was harmed or abused in the making of this film,’” Papirmeister said. “Well, no minor was molested or exploited by Mr. Schmitt… (there was) no participation, no discussion, not even her knowledge of anything.
“Even her own mother did not submit (the video) to police until three months later,” he added.
The mother found the video on Feb. 4, 2010 but did not tell police until May 21, 2010. Charging documents state that the mother confronted Schmitt about the video and that “he admitted he had a problem and promised he would get help.”
But Broten said the mother’s delayed reaction was irrelevant.
“Parents don’t always act as society would expect,” she said.
Leasure, in offering her guilty verdict, said that knowledge and physical harm were not necessary in cases of sexual child abuse. She said the privacy and health of the victim were also considerations.
She noted that Schmitt took the time to carefully place the camera, which was the size of a pack of gum, so the room was in full view. She also noted how he held an item of the teen’s clothing while masturbating.
“Certainly it shows his intention was to videotape (the victim) in undress,” she said.
At the hearing, Schmitt was also found guilty of illegally videotaping the girl. Leasure has ordered that Schmitt undergo a phsyco-sexual evaluation before sentencing.
Schmitt was suspended from his job as a Laurel Police officer as soon as authorities learned of the accusations in February 2010. Laurel Police Chief Richard McLaughlin said Schmitt resigned from the department in August 2010.