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Florida man and former head monk at N.S. monastery pleads guilty to voyeurism

Click to play video: 'Global News Morning Halifax: July 5'
Global News Morning Halifax: July 5
The online edition of Global News Morning with Paul Brothers and Eilish Bonang on Global Halifax – Jul 5, 2023

A Florida man has pleaded guilty to a voyeurism charge dating back to the time he served as head monk at a Cape Breton Buddhist monastery.

Jack Hillie is accused of observing or recording a person in a circumstance where they have a reasonable expectation of privacy, between December 2020 and November 2021, when he was head monk at Gampo Abbey monastery, in Pleasant Bay, N.S.

Hillie, a United States citizen, entered his guilty plea via video call in Port Hawkesbury provincial court earlier this week.

His lawyer, James Giacomantonio, told Judge Nicole Rovers that his client would gather documents for the Crown ahead of sentencing. Both Giacomantonio and Hillie are expected to attend the sentencing in person on Nov. 7.

Hillie is also facing civil legal proceedings in connection with his time at the monastery. In a lawsuit filed last month in Nova Scotia Supreme Court, Christopher Longoria of Texas alleges he was secretly filmed by Hillie while taking a shower in November 2021 at Gampo Abbey.

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Longoria is seeking unspecified damages from Gampo Abbey and its parent company, Shambhala Canada Society. The lawsuit alleges the two organizations were negligent in failing to protect residents’ privacy. Neither Gampo Abbey nor Shambhala Canada Society immediately responded to requests for comment on Wednesday.

The plaintiff says in the lawsuit that he arrived at the remote monastery in November 2021, planning to stay until he was ordained as a monk. He says that shortly after he arrived, while showering, he discovered a camera attached to the wall.

The suit alleges that Hillie admitted the camera belonged to him.

Longoria says he reported the incident to local police and transferred the camera to them, including a memory card.

“Police later confirmed that the camera contained video footage filmed unknowingly of others in the monastery showers, and that there was further video footage of a similar nature stored at the monastery,” the suit alleges.

Longoria’s Halifax-based lawyer, Basia Sawinski, said in June that other complainants may come forward.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 5, 2023.

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