Former park ranger pleads guilty on all 15 counts
Written by BILL RYAN Sentinel Staff Writer
Thursday, 02 May 2013 15:48
A former Wood County Park Ranger pleaded guilty to all 15 counts filed against him in regard to his voyeurism in 2011 at both W.W. Knight Preserve, Perrysburg, and Otsego Park in rural Bowling Green.
|Former Wood County Park Ranger John Millinger is seen at the defense stand with his attorney during a hearing at the Wood County Courthouse on May 2, 2013. (Photo: Enoch Wu/Sentinel-Tribune)
John Millinger, 27, of Millbury, formerly of Toledo, entered the guilty pleas Thursday afternoon before Common Pleas Court Judge Robert Pollex. Pollex accepted his plea and found him guilty on all 15 counts. The charges stem from his actions beginning in January 2011 and continuing through Sept. 3 of that year.
Five of the charges are felonies. Through a plea agreement, it will be jointly recommended he be ordered to serve 54 months in prison.
According to the indictment and information presented in court, Millinger set up unauthorized surveillance equipment at the park facilities and observed and downloaded images of 11 different females, many in a state of nudity.
According to Heather Baker, an assistant Wood County prosecutor, the defendant in his employment violated the park district policies by arranging for visitors to use unauthorized areas of park buildings to change clothes.
In those rooms, which included an upper level classroom at Knight Preserve and an office area at Otsego Park, he hid surveillance equipment where the females, including one minor girl, would change in front of the cameras for his viewing, recording and downloading onto his own electronic equipment.
The agreement also allows for the forfeiture of his MacBook computer and iPod Touch which both contained the images.
Millinger answered most of the judges questions with, "Yes, your honor" or "Yes sir."
When the judge asked if he was entering a guilty plea to all counts, the defendant responded, "I am your honor."
Pollex ordered a pre-sentence investigation be made by the adult probation department. Sentencing was set for June 18 at 9:30 a.m.
Baker told the judge her office would not oppose Millinger being able to file for judicial release after he has served a minimum of six months.
Under the law the most serious offense is tampering with evidence, a third degree felony. That charge involves his attempting to conceal evidence after his actions were discovered on Aug. 27, 2011. The charge carries a maximum of three years in prison.
Three other charges are fifth-degree felony offenses of theft in office. Those charges each carry a maximum sentence of one year in prison.
As a public employee, the indictments indicate he abused his rights and privileges to commit the voyeurism crimes.
"He knew it was against regulations but allowed them to use those facilities," Baker said.
The remaining 11 counts are tied to the 11 females who were recorded. The most serious of those charges involved a 2-year-old victim, thus elevating the crime to a fifth-degree felony offense.
The other 10 charges are either second- or third-degree misdemeanors, based on how the women were seen in various states of undress.
Millinger's attorney, Jerome "Jerry" Phillips, did not offer any comments or explanations during Thursday's proceedings. Following the plea hearing, he told the Sentinel, he would have comments at sentencing.
During court, Baker detailed each of the cases identifying each victim by her date of birth only. The voyeurism charges stem from Millinger's actions in 2011 on Jan. 10, June 3, Aug. 20 and 27 and Sept. 3.
She told the judge that the defendant had set up the surveillance equipment by placing a recording device hidden behind a "No Smoking" sign in a restroom and behind a hole in a curtain. She also said he locked the door of one of the restroom stalls, forcing the women to use the stall where he had hidden the recording equipment.
The equipment was discovered by one of the victims after bumping into the curtain on Aug. 27 dislodging the iPod.
Baker said the three counts from Sept. 3 were after he knew of the previous week's discovery.
After the discovery, Millinger resigned from the park position, where he had served for one year.
Park director Neil Munger was in attendance on Thursday and said Millinger had passed the background check when hired, and the district is confident in its policies for the safety of visitors.
"We cooperated completed with the investigation," Munger said noting other rangers assisted in the investigation.
Pollex allowed Millinger remain free on his own recognizance until the time of sentencing.
Last Updated on Friday, 03 May 2013 11:13