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Former Vancouver schools custodian in court facing 137 counts of voyeurism

Clark County Sheriff's Office seized computers, cellphones, 20 thumb drives, 25 SD cards, 14 mini SD cards from suspect's home

By , Columbian staff reporter
Published:
Updated: January 27, 2023, 12:34pm

A judge set bail Friday at $500,000 for a former custodian at Alki Middle School who appeared in Clark County Superior Court on suspicion of 137 counts of first-degree voyeurism.

James D. Mattson, 38, of Vancouver was booked Thursday into the Clark County Jail on the allegations, according to the Clark County Sheriff’s Office. He is scheduled to be arraigned Oct. 21.

Senior Deputy Prosecutor Kasey Vu said investigators seized multiple computers, two cellphones, 20 thumb drives, 25 SD cards and 14 mini SD cards from Mattson’s Hazel Dell house. He said deputies might still find more devices and that the 137 counts of voyeurism are just from the initial review of the devices.

Most of the images investigators found showed people using a female staff restroom at Skyview High School since 2013. There was also at least one video of a girl getting dressed in front of a bay of lockers, Vu said.

Vu said the case could lead to an untold number of victims, and investigators are working with Vancouver Public Schools to identify victims.

Vancouver Public Schools said Thursday that Mattson is on unpaid leave, pending termination proceedings. The school district previously said he had been stripped of access to district systems and buildings.

Mattson retained Vancouver defense attorney Erin McAleer, who said Friday morning that he thinks “$500,000 (bail) should shock the court’s conscience as the ask in this case.”

McAleer noted the allegations against Mattson are nonviolent and that any potential additional charges were not yet before the judge. When deputies contacted McAleer on Thursday about having probable cause to arrest Mattson, he accompanied Mattson, along with Mattson’s father, to the jail to turn himself in, he said.

The defense attorney said in a statement after the hearing he was disappointed in Judge Suzan Clark’s ruling on bail.

“Although we highly respect Judge Clark, as do many members of the local and state bar association, we believe her ruling on bail to be out of line with our state’s court rules, relevant case law and Washington’s Constitution,” McAleer said in the emailed statement. “Although we cannot address the specific allegations made against Mr. Mattson at this time, we expect and hope that Mr. Mattson will be able to receive fair and equitable rulings in this case as justice requires in the future.”

Investigation

According to a search warrant affidavit, the criminal investigation, which came to light last week, began Oct. 5 after Mattson’s live-in girlfriend reported that she discovered a video on his computer of a girl changing clothes in a locker room.

Deputies conducted searches at Alki and nearby Skyview, because of the fact Mattson had also spent time at the high school.

Vu said through his position as a custodian, Mattson had access to all Vancouver Public Schools facilities, and it appears he took advantage of his access. The school district previously said it had searched all district buildings and did not find any cameras.

Mattson had worked for Vancouver Public Schools since April 5, 2007, when he started as a substitute custodian. He had been the building operator for Alki since the 2018-2019 school year and also served as Alki’s assistant flag football coach for the 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 school years, according to the school district.

Mattson’s girlfriend — who, according to court records, has since sought a protection order against him, told detectives she had moved in with Mattson about two to three months ago.

On the morning of Oct. 5, she woke up after he left for work, walked by the computer room and saw his computer was open, she said. She sat down and started looking through files, she said, and found a video of a girl dressing in a locker room. The video appeared to be from a hidden camera, placed low to the floor and pointed upward at a high angle, the search warrant affidavit states.

After finding the video, the woman called Mattson and said, “Tell me that’s not Alki.” The woman said Mattson told her he had placed a camera in the locker room because there had been problems with theft. When she confronted him about that being a lie, he allegedly said, “It’s not sexual. I don’t do anything with them. It’s about having them,” the search warrant affidavit reads. He also allegedly told her, “I have a problem.”

While detectives were serving the search warrant at Mattson’s house, he called his girlfriend. She said he denied placing cameras in student restrooms, but he implied he placed them in staff restrooms, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Investigators noted in the probable cause affidavit an unsolved case from 2020, in which staff at Alki reported finding a toiletry kit in a staff restroom that had been modified to secrete a camera. Mattson was employed at Alki at that time.

Detectives said they later determined the video of the girl changing in a locker room was taken at Skyview, the probable cause affidavit states.

On Monday, Mattson’s girlfriend reported finding a stash of thumb drives and SD cards, along with a camera and a box of CDs, in the garage. She said she put one of the thumb drives into a computer and saw an image of a woman dressing in a public restroom. Investigators also determined that photo was taken in a staff restroom at Skyview, court records state.

Investigators found at least 137 videos between five devices. Detectives said Mattson’s face can be seen in at least two of the videos while he adjusts and places the camera, according to the probable cause affidavit.

The sheriff’s office’s Major Crimes Unit is still investigating, and additional charges are possible.

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