MIDDLEBURY, Vt. (WCAX) A Middlebury massage therapist accused of secretly videotaping clients admitted his guilt in front of more than a dozen of his victims in court.
Roger Schmidt previously pleaded not guilty to recording the women at his business, Roger's Relaxing Massage Therapy, but he changed that plea Monday.
Schmidt will spend six months in jail and he's on probation until further notice. He pleaded guilty to more than 25 counts of voyeurism and two counts of illegal practice of medicine. The judge dismissed the child pornography charge.
Schmidt apologized to his victims in court but the judge said it was the victims' emotional testimonies that swayed her decision to give him a longer sentence.
Our Christina Guessferd spoke with the victim who first alerted the police to the hidden camera, setting the investigation in motion.
"I didn't realize the magnitude of how big this case has become," Karrie Sinks said.
When Sinks prepared to get a massage from Roger Schmidt, she said she knew something wasn't right.
"I looked around and I saw it, and I was like, that's it. That's a camera, I know it is," she said.
Sinks chose to share her story and her name with WCAX News. She's one of more than a dozen victims who were in court Monday. We do not reveal the identities of victims of sex crimes without their permission.
"I trusted that you would help me, free me of pain. Little did I know that you would cause me more pain than I could ever imagine," one anonymous complainant said.
Like that woman, many of the victims expressed their embarrassment at being filmed without their knowledge.
"I was disgusted and mortified. I couldn't look anyone in the eye, especially my husband," she said.
Others illustrated how Schmidt's illegal practice of medicine traumatized them and instilled feelings of betrayal.
"Roger told me that he had a technique called stripping, cupping, fluffing that he could demonstrate to help decrease breast cancer risks. I had shared with Roger that both of my parents have died of cancer and shared that I'm afraid of being diagnosed with cancer, dying young like they did," another anonymous complainant said.
"There's a sense that I've been robbed, and I still don't know all of what was taken," said Michelle Audette, another complainant who agreed to share her identity. "I will work hard every day to integrate this violation into the fabric of who I am. At the same time, I'm committed to not letting it take up any more space in my life than is absolutely necessary."
In addressing the victims, Schmidt apologized for his actions.
"Knowing the great hurt my actions have caused, I can only understand and accept your well-deserved disgust and anger at me. I was supposed to help you get rid of your pain, not create new pain for you," Schmidt said.
But the victims said his apology and his sentence are not enough.
"Something else has to happen," Sinks said.
That something else is already in the works. Vermont is one of only four states in the country that doesn't require a massage therapist to have a license or any training at all. Addison County State's Attorney Dennis Wygmans says he plans to advocate for regulation during the next legislative session.