A man accused of secretly filming an 11-year-old girl while she showered at a home in Butte pleaded guilty Thursday to felony sexual abuse of children.
William Patrick Shea, 61, withdrew his previous not-guilty plea and through an agreement with prosecutors pleaded guilty before District Judge Brad Newman.
Details of the plea deal were not immediately available, but regardless of any sentencing recommendations in it, judges do not have to follow them. The maximum penalty for the charge is life in prison.
Newman ordered a pre-sentence investigation and will set sentencing after receiving it. Shea remains jailed with bond set at $75,000.
Shea was arrested last March 29 after police said an 11-year-old girl told them she believed she was being secretly filmed while showering. Police interviewed Shea and got a search warrant for his phone.
According to prosecutors, Shea admitted to police that he took a short video of the girl in the shower but said he did not know why.
“Shea said that he watched the video and looked at the picture but then erased it because he knew it was wrong,” the charging document says.
It says he also admitted downloading videos of children with other children and flushing the memory card to his phone down the toilet.
Judges usually follow recommended sentences in plea deals, but Newman — as he does with any defendants about to change pleas — cautioned Shea that he was not “legally bound” to do so. Regardless, he said, the voluntary guilty plea would stand.
“I understand your honor,” said Shea, standing in cuffs and an orange jail jumpsuit.
Newman said the pre-sentence investigation should include a “psycho-sexual” evaluation, but Victor Bunitsky — Shea’s public defender — said one had already been completed.