Mark Stodghill, Forum Communications Co., Published June 18 2011
Essentia behavioral director accused of window peeping into girl's bedroom
Richard Allen Paul, 57, of Cloquet was charged Friday in Carlton County District Court with “interference with privacy.” The felony crime accuses Allen of intentionally intruding upon or interfering with the privacy of a member of a household and wrongfully interfering with the privacy of a member of the household.
Carlton County Attorney Thom Pertler, who charged the case, said the crime is a felony because the person whose privacy was violated is a minor.
Paul, who went by the name Rick Paul while in Fargo, was director of behavioral health at MeritCare from May 1999 to July 2002, when he joined Essentia in Duluth, according to his profile on LinkedIn. MeritCare is now part of Sanford Health.
His connection to the Fargo-Moorhead area also includes a master’s of education degree in guidance and counseling from North Dakota State University from 1987 to 1989.
Paul appeared in court wearing an orange Carlton County Jail jumpsuit and handcuffs. He is being represented by Superior defense attorney Stephen Zuber.
“I’m not at liberty at this juncture to discuss anything,’’ Zuber said after the hearing.
A spokeswoman at Essentia Health confirmed Paul’s position with the health care provider. She said Paul is on leave.
Sixth Judicial District Judge Robert Macaulay set bail at $25,000 but ordered that a probation officer study whether Paul qualifies for supervised release. The court ordered that the defendant have no contact with the alleged victim or victims nor any other minor children in the neighborhood.
Paul is accused of peeping into his neighbor’s house. The defendant has no prior criminal record, according to a probation officer, who addressed the court.
The owner of the home that Paul is accused of peeking into said he has been a neighbor of the defendant for about 12 years. He said the incident has been a “very traumatic experience for us.”
“My wife and I are very concerned for the safety of our family, especially our children,’’ said B.J. Berg, an elementary school principal. “The sanctity of our home and neighborhood has been violated. I know I can’t speak for anyone else, but I personally highly respected and trusted this individual. I viewed him as a model neighbor and someone I considered to be a friend.
“That’s no longer the case. I feel the media and especially the public need to be well-informed about this individual and his actions on the night of June 14.”
According to the criminal complaint:
Berg went outside his home around 11:30 p.m. that night to turn off his lawn sprinkler. He saw a man wearing a black ski mask, tan shirt and jeans peering into a minor daughter’s bedroom window. He said the man immediately began to walk away. Berg asked him what he was doing.
The man said something about trying to find his dogs. Berg told him, “Not at my daughter’s window you’re not,’’ and told him to get off his property.
Berg got into his vehicle and followed him as he waited for police to arrive. When they approached Paul’s address at 736 Hantz Road, the man took off his ski mask, and Berg immediately recognized him as Paul. Cloquet police arrived and knocked on Paul’s door. He refused to answer it, the complaint alleges. The officers began to prepare a search warrant but were eventually able to get the defendant to come to the door.
Police said Paul told them he had merely been looking for his dogs. He denied wearing a ski mask but admitted he had a firearm on his hip at the time he was at the alleged victims’ home.
Cloquet detectives found a loaded handgun under Paul’s bed. They also located the boots, jeans, shirt and ski mask he was described to have been wearing. They also found night vision goggles.
The Bergs said they had seen Paul when they were coming home from a family event about 10:30 that night, but he didn’t have his dogs with him. They had a brief conversation in which the defendant said he was merely getting some exercise. They thought that was unusual because Paul usually had his dogs with him when walking on Hantz Road.
Two girls in the home had been sleeping in the same bedroom because one of the girls had been having problems sleeping after hearing strange noises outside her window for the past month, and she was afraid to sleep in the room by herself.
Forum reporter Patrick Springer contributed to this report
Mark Stodghill writes for the Duluth News Tribune