Members of an Upper Marlboro family whose home was burglarized last year by a retired Air Force sergeant who allegedly stalked and photographed dozens of young children said yesterday they were furious to learn that the man could go free this spring as part of a plea agreement.
The former airman, Charles Olin Hamilton Jr., 40, was sentenced Thursday in Prince George's County Circuit Court to one year in prison after he pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree burglary. But with credit for time served, he is eligible to be released on March 27, court records show.
"This guy is sick. He's going to do this again," said Scott Patnode, an Air Force pilot and father of three whose home was burglarized twice by Hamilton. "Initially, I was physically ill at the thought of this. Now I'm more angry. For the prosecutor to agree to this basically means it's open season on young boys in Prince George's County."
Hamilton was arrested by Prince George's police on March 28, after he was caught about 3:20 a.m. with a camera around his neck while trying to break into the bedroom of Patnode's son, who was then 2 years old. Soon after, investigators said they found a stash of child pornography, more than 6,000 photos of little boys and about 2,600 diapers--many of them soiled--in Hamilton's car and a storage locker he had rented.
Police later said they identified more than two dozen homes in Charles and Prince George's counties, as well as some in Kansas, that they suspect Hamilton had broken into so he could photograph toddlers in the nude and steal their underwear without their parents' knowledge.
Hamilton still faces a burglary charge in Charles County and is scheduled to go on trial there Feb. 1, according to court records. Investigators have acknowledged that their evidence against him is circumstantial and that their strongest case stemmed from the Upper Marlboro break-ins.
Patnode and his wife, Jeanne, said they learned of Hamilton's sentence only yesterday after a neighbor called them to say he had heard about the outcome. The couple said Prince George's prosecutors and court officials never notified them about Hamilton's plea bargain or his sentencing.
Jeanne Patnode said Assistant State's Attorney Richard A. Moore II called her last September to tell her that he was considering a plea deal, though he didn't describe the terms. That was the last she heard about the case, she said.
"He asked me what I wanted, and I told him that what I wanted was for this guy to go to jail for a very long time--like 20 to 30 years," said Jeanne Patnode, who added that she and her husband plan to sell their house and leave Prince George's because they fear Hamilton might target them again. "I'm very upset. [Hamilton] is a very sick pedophile, and he needs to be put away from society for the rest of his life."
But Prince George's State's Attorney Jack B. Johnson said the Patnodes were fully informed of the case every step of the way. He said Jeanne Patnode filled out a victim-impact statement that was read to the judge during sentencing.
"They were aware of everything--absolutely," Johnson said. "I don't know where these people are coming from."
Johnson said the most prison time Hamilton could have received under the plea agreement was six years. "We argued as strongly as we could for the maximum," he said.
John McKenna, an assistant public defender in Prince George's who represented Hamilton, declined to comment.