A man caught touching himself inappropriately in Walmart pleaded no contest to open lewdness on Wednesday and was sentenced to serve five days in jail and two years probation.
Prosecutors had asked for Samuel C. Holes, 55, to serve 90 days in jail, the maximum sentence for the class ‘B’ misdemeanor.
“This is not only a moral issue, but a public safety issue,” Assistant City Attorney August Petropulos argued before Judge Thomas Nave during the change of plea/sentencing hearing in Juneau District Court.
Petropulos said Walmart employees caught Holes engaged in the act on Oct. 18 as he was watching and following a young mother in her 20s around the store. The mother, who was never identified, had her child with her sitting in the grocery cart. The girl was estimated to be about five years old.
Holes admitted the act in a later interview with police, according to an affidavit. He specified with the officers that he was not watching the child, the affidavit states.
“The city believes this was a serious incident,” Petropulos said.
Holes’ attorney, City Public Defender Thomas Wagner, said he “strongly disagreed” that this case warrants the maximum penalty. He cited the city ordinance that states a person only commits a lewd act if “he knew he was likely to be observed by others who would be affronted or alarmed.”
“He definitely contends he was not trying to be seen,” Wagner argued.
Wagner said Holes was attempting to conceal himself, not expose himself, by standing behind his grocery cart and by wearing a long jacket. Holes touched himself under his pants through the jacket pocket holes, Wagner said.
“... He was concealing himself. Nobody did see except the security guards that were following him around,” Wagner said.
Wagner argued that his client is not a sex offender and did not pose a danger to the victims or the community at large. He explained that Holes suffers from depression and anxiety issues, and he has since enrolled with the Juneau Alliance for Mental Health, Inc, for counseling.
“(The act was) obviously inappropriate, but he didn’t pose a danger or threat to them,” Wagner said, requesting the judge impose suspended jail time with strict probation conditions, or no more than 10 days to serve in jail. “... He’s a quiet man who has issues that he’s receiving help for.”
When it was his turn to speak, Holes pleaded for leniency and requested to do community work service in lieu of jail time. He said he was an artist who does oil paintings of the Mendenhall Glacier from atop Thunder Mountain, and that he doesn’t want to lose his job as a dishwasher.
“That’s all I am,” he told the judge. “Just a simple, quiet man.”
He told the judge he previously has received help for mental health issues, and promised to keep receiving counseling through JAMHI. He added that he did not expose himself and that it was “not meant for the view of the woman or anyone.”
Nave ended up imposing 90 days in jail with 85 days suspended (meaning five days to serve), plus probation and 40 hours of community work service.
Nave said while it was serious offense that occurred in a public place, it was also clear that no one saw him except the Walmart employees. This sentence reflects community condemnation for such acts and should act as a deterrence, but also factors in Holes’ rehabilitation, Nave said.
Nave ordered Holes to report to jail next Monday.
• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at email@example.com.