Ex-Wethersfield Principal John Bean Pleads Guilty To Voyeurism; Faces Prison

A former principal of Wethersfield’s Highcrest Elementary School pleaded guilty Monday to two felony counts of voyeurism for taking upskirt photos of young girls at the Hartford Walmart store.

John Bean, 47, of West Hartford, faces up to two years in prison when he is sentenced Jan. 9. Under the terms of his plea agreement, negotiated by defense attorney William Paetzold and prosecutor Debra Collins, Bean faces a sentence of 10 years in prison, suspended after he serves two years, and 10 years of probation.

Collins also wants Bean to register as a sex offender for the 10 years he is on probation. Paetzold said he intends to address the registration requirement at the sentencing.

Bean was arrested by Hartford police Sept. 24, 2016, after he attracted the attention of Walmart security staff, who said they thought he was getting ready to steal merchandise. The store employees then realized that Bean was "following children and attempting to surreptitiously photograph them, especially when they were not in the immediate vicinity of their parents," according to a police report.

Police said that Bean appeared to be following girls between the ages of 6 and 8 and said they saw him "attempting to raise his phone and point it at them in an inconspicuous manner."

When Hartford police Capt. Achilles Rethis, who was working an extra-duty job at the store, and Walmart security staff confronted Bean, Bean refused to give his name and resisted arrest, according to the warrant. He also refused to give police the passcode for his iPhone.

Police seized the phone. Wethersfield school officials put Bean on paid administrative leave after his arrest and gave police permission to access the phone and Bean’s laptop computer, both of which were owned by the school district.

Bean, a father of three who previously worked in South Windsor and Tolland, has since resigned his job, and his wife has filed for divorce.

When state police computer crimes investigators searched the phone and computer, they found voyeuristic videos of young girls he had taken on his school-issued phone and stored on his school-issued computer.

State police, assisted by U.S. Department of Homeland Security investigators, searched Bean's laptop and found 14 video files that, according to the warrant, appeared to show "female children being surreptitiously recorded in public places such as Walmart and Disney World. The female children are being recorded as they shop, and in one of the videos, the person taking the recording attempts to place the camera in between the child's legs in order to obtain an 'upskirt' video."

The child did not appear to realize she was being recorded as she crouched to look at toys on the store shelves at the Hartford Walmart.

The person taking the video "captures dark colored shorts underneath what appears to be a skirt, and a small amount of the female child's pink underwear is also visible," according to the warrant.

As the child stood up to walk away, the person taking the video again placed the camera beneath the child's skirt.

The four videos for which he was charged were taken while he was still principal. Police confirmed that the computer was solely assigned to Bean and that it was password protected and that only Bean had the password.

In the iPhone 5S seized when Bean was arrested Sept. 24 at the Hartford Walmart store, investigators found the video that had been transferred to Bean's laptop, and three other videos they considered voyeurism.

Two of three were shot at the Hartford Walmart. The fourth was shot at the Five Below store in Manchester. Five Below is a store that caters to teens and preteens.

Another of the videos shot Aug. 25, 2016, at Walmart shows a girl police estimate is 9 to 12 years old. The girl and an adult are looking at school supplies. "Bean walks next to the female child and places the phone underneath the female child's skirt and obtains a clear video of the female child's underwear," the warrant reads. "Bean does this a total of four times throughout the course of the video."

A video recorded Aug. 21, 2016, at Five Below is three minutes, 39 seconds long. The person taking the video approaches a boy and girl looking at toys. Police estimated the girl was between 11 and 14 years old. "Bean stands next to the female child and places the phone underneath [her] shorts and obtains a clear video of [her] underwear," according to the warrant. The child then walked to another aisle and Bean followed her, according to the warrant.

Bean tried to take another upskirt photo of the child, then followed two more girls, according to the warrant.

In a video police say was recorded July 22, 2016, at the Hartford Walmart, the camera is placed beneath the skirt of a girl police estimate was 7 to 10 years old, but did not capture video of her underwear, according to the warrant. Another video taken the same day at the Hartford Walmart is the one police found on Bean's laptop.

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