Spy-cam case: Hormone imbalance suggested in UVA Law student B&E
A pituitary gland tumor could have been a factor in former UVA law student Joshua Gomes' bizarre after-hours entry into Carruthers Hall, his attorney suggested August 3 when Gomes pleaded guilty to one count of breaking and entering.
Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Joe Platania released a document detailing for the first time the reason for the law student's illegal entry into the Registrar's Office and installation of a coat-hook spycam. Gomes was attempting to intercept a request for a transcript from a large New York law firm where he had a summer internship because he had "inaccurately" reported his GPA– although he didn't have a plan beyond that and admitted he didn't have the expertise to forge a transcript, according to the Commonwealth's statement of facts.
Gomes appeared subdued and was asked by Judge Edward Hogshire to stand up to enter his guilty plea. "What is your plea?" Hogshire inquired. Defense attorney Bonnie Lepold prompted Gomes to respond. "Guilty, your honor," he said.
Gomes originally was charged with two felony counts of armed burglary, which carry 20 years to life, and felony possession of burglary tools. Platania agreed to drop those charges because the weapon Gomes carried was a folding pocketknife that he regularly had on him. "It's not like a firearm," said Platania, noting that the Commonwealth still was making a large concession in reducing the charges.
Judge Hogshire rejected Lepold's request to further reduce the charge to a misdemeanor.
A UVA procurement employee spotted a black male wearing a black hoodie with red-and-white designs on the second floor of Carruthers Hall around 4am December 5. The intruder fled, and the employee called the police, according to the prosecution's statement of facts.
The morning of December 6, Registrar's Office employee Debra Shifflett noticed on out-of-place adhesive-backed hook on the wall of the "Diploma Room," which contains a printer used for certified UVA student transcripts. She removed the hook and saw a flash memory card on its back.
An IT employee discovered a video file time-stamped 3am December 6 that showed a light-skinned black male looking directly at the hook-cam, which was trained on the transcript printer. Employees noticed that transcript paper was missing from a file cabinet.
University Police opened an investigation and set up surveillance for the wee hours of December 7 because of the two previous early morning burglaries and because the hook-cam didn't transmit wirelessly, and investigators figured the suspect would have to return to get the video footage.
At 3am December 7, waiting cops saw a male walking between Carruthers and woods to the east. He went up to a door at the south entrance, but didn't enter and crossed Emmett Street. Officers at Barracks Road Shopping Center arrested Gomes, who was wearing a similar black hoodie to the one seen on the video.
He also carried a pocketknife, white latex gloves, a flashlight, motorcycle gloves, and a backpack that contained 3M Command Brand adhesive strips, which matched those used on the hook-cam, and an Apple MacBook, according to the prosecution.
Gomes initially claimed he had parked in the Rugby Road area and was walking to the Law School. Police found wire/bolt cutters, adhesive backing, and latex gloves in the back of his Nissan Murano. In his Westfield Road residence, investigators found packaging and a receipt for the coat-hook cam, as well as transcript paper.
By April, Gomes decided to cooperate and revealed he'd entered a surprisingly unsecured Carruthers the first time through an open window and on December 6 through an open loading-dock door. When he returned December 7, he found a side door unlocked, but had second thoughts and didn't enter.
As for the hook-cam, Gomes told prosecutors he was conducting surveillance to determine transcript printing and operating procedures.
Defense attorney Lepold gave the judge a psychiatric report and a letter from Gomes' current employer. She noted that Gomes, the first member of his family to go to grad school, was suffering from the stress of UVA Law School, as well as from a strained relationship with his significant other and the stress of parenting a young child.
He'd also been experiencing migraines, fatigue, and short-term memory loss, and was considering withdrawing from school, said Lepold.
Just before he was arrested, Gomes was diagnosed with a tumor on his pituitary gland, which could have contributed to low hormone levels and to his erratic behavior, according to the Commonwealth's statement of facts.
Gomes, who now lives in Connecticut, will be sentenced December 18. He faces up to 20 years in prison.