Tanning bed voyeur convicted in Hamilton

While police were investigating allegations 20-year-old Zachary Thomas took secret snapshots of women in various stages of undress at the Beach Bound Tanning Salon, they found a nude picture of a 17-year-old girl on his phone. He was charged with 14 misdemeanor counts of voyeurism, disseminating matter harmful to juveniles and a fifth-degree felony count of illegal use of a minor in a nudity-oriented material or performance.

Assistant Prosecutor Jennifer McElfresh said Thomas plead guilty to the 15 misdemeanor counts Tuesday morning so a jury just had to decide the felony charge. They deliberated about 3 1/2 hours and returned their verdict around 7 p.m.

McElfresh said the 17-year-old girl and Thomas exchanged more than 160 texts in about a week’s time and they sent nude pictures of themselves to each other. They corresponded on Facebook and she said they met in person a couple of times.

The maximum penaty is seven years in the Butler County Jail and the felony count could have meant a year in prison if he had a criminal record, according to Prosecutor Mike Gmoser. However, since the passage of House Bill 86 a year ago, Gmoser said judges aren’t allowed — unless there are special circumstances — to send fourth-and-fifth degree felons to prison. He said it is also highly unlikely he’ll spend much if any time in jail.

“That was a just verdict,” he said. “He is a fellow who obviously has some issues that need to be addressed and the court’s going to be in the best position to address them.”

Thomas will have to report as a sex offender to the county sheriff once a year for 15 years. His attorney Jim Cooney said his client only knew the girl for six days, she had graduated from high school, worked full time and was enrolled at Sinclair Community College. He didn’t know she was only 17 years old.

“These two people were together from March 6 to March 12 and they actually saw each other physically four times,” he said. “Was my guy supposed to ask for her driver’s license or her passport?”

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