Warning: this story contains graphic details that may be unsettling for some readers.
Sentencing for a man who secretly filmed women, including minors, as they used a staff bathroom in a Saanich grocery store, then shared sexually explicit images of them online, has been delayed until Sept. 14.
While working at the grocery store, Matthew Charles Schwabe, 33, set up a camera and secretly filmed female coworkers and friends as they used the facilities. He took still images from the videos, which showed the women’s buttocks and genitals, and posted them to a Russian revenge porn website and a 4chan thread with degrading and crude commentary, according to facts laid out in a sentencing hearing at Victoria Law Courts on Wednesday (Sept. 1).
Schwabe’s charged with possession of child pornography, making or publishing and distributing child pornography, publication of intimate images without consent, secretly observing and recording nudity in a private place, committing an indecent act in a public place and theft of $5,000 or under.
Schwabe also posted photos of the victims’ faces and names alongside the sexually explicit photos so that the women could be identified. People in the comment section would then work to identify the women and details of their life like where they live, work and go to school.
Schwabe also hid a camera in his own bathroom to capture his female roommate using the washroom, undressing and showering. Those images were also posted.
The nine victims, whose names are protected through a publication ban, ranged in age from 17 to 23 at the time their photos were posted. Crown is seeking an 18-month to two-year jail sentence and a 10-year prohibition on Internet use that would include some exceptions, but bar him from accessing Internet pornography.
At the hearing, a Crown lawyer argued the sentence was appropriate considering the young age of victims, with three being under 18 when they were filmed, and Schwabe’s repeated conduct over a long period of time – the images were filmed between 2012 and 2014 and distributed from 2015 to 2016.
Crown also pointed to how sophisticated and well-planned the crimes were, how there was a severe breach of trust as Schwabe was a coworker and roommate of the victims, and the combination of voyeurism and distribution in the case.
The Crown lawyer also noted this case needs to set a precedent.
Through victim impact statements presented on Sept. 1, many of the women said they have constant and severe anxiety due to the Schwabe’s crimes. One women fears she’ll be tracked down at her home or work by people who now know her full name and face. A victim said she fears she’s being watched even in private spaces and another woman said being filmed crosses her mind every time she uses the bathroom, even in her own home.
Another said she has chronic nightmares, trust issues, bottles up her emotions, pushes people away, feels damaged and suffers from severe anxiety and insecurity.
The defence attorney pointed to how Schwabe never contested his charges, has pleaded guilty and is more remorseful about his actions compared to other sexual offenders who have committed similar crimes. In its opposition to incarceration, it argued that rehabilitation would lower what the defense claimed is an already low risk of Schwabe re-offending. In arguing for why treatment would be a better solution, the defence acknowledged his client’s mental health disorders and how he has faced issues with his medication.
Schwabe has been in the community and has not been involved in any inappropriate conduct in the five years since the criminal investigation began, the defence said.
The judge on Wednesday said the case is very serious and must be treated with care, informing the court that a decision will be rendered on Sept. 14.
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