University of Florida students who were secretly recorded nude in dormitory bathrooms and showers say they are disappointed that a judge sentenced the man responsible to no additional time behind bars.
Alachua County Circuit Judge James M. Colaw last week sentenced Deontre Donnell Mason, 25, of Carterville, Illinois, to one year of house arrest followed by four years of probation with electronic monitoring. Mason pleaded no contest to nine felony charges of video voyeurism.
Police said Mason had secretly recorded students in the second-floor bathrooms and showers using his blue iPhone in December. They found 37 videos of 18 women from the University of Florida on his phone.
Colaw also sentenced Mason on Thursday to 90 days behind bars but gave him full credit for 81 days spent in jail since his arrest and allowed him to be released Friday. Mason was not a university student.
Mason did not return a phone message Monday. He is also accused of illegally recording women at four other universities in at least two other states, according to court records and police interviews. He is facing a criminal trial Oct. 10 in Orlando in one of the cases. His family said Mason was planning to move to Orlando once he obtains permission from court authorities.
In Gainesville, the judge ordered him to have no contact with victims in his case, stay away from all colleges or universities, undergo a psychiatric evaluation within 30 days and turn over any sexual images he still possessed within seven days.
Victims at the University of Florida said in interviews they wanted tougher penalties for Mason, including at least five years in prison, noting that Mason had been investigated for doing this on other campuses.
They said they were disgusted over Mason’s light sentence, and predicted he would not learn his lesson. News organizations generally do not identify victims of sex crimes.
Under Florida law, video voyeurism carries penalties of up to five years in prison on each charge. Defendants can’t be ordered to register as sex offenders unless the victims were under 18.
“I think he needs to be registered as a sex offender,” one woman said. “It’s not because of how many times he’s done it but the fact he’s been warned so many times, and caught at these different schools, that he still continues to do it.”
Another woman said she believed Mason would offend again based on his sentence but said she was comfortable he would be wearing an ankle monitor.
“Yeah, that to me does not feel long enough at all,” said another woman who was listed in court records as a prospective trial witness. “I feel like it would’ve been longer if minors were involved, and a lot of the girls just turned 18 at the time.”
Another witness said: “The punishment might be enough to where he can take the time to seek therapy in the comfort of his home rather than in prison for five years; however, I still feel uneasy that he served only 81 days.”
Another victim said she had been using the women’s bathroom stall while Mason peered over the divider recording her. She also criticized the university for allowing Mason to sneak inside the dormitory. University police filed a trespass order against Mason in December banning him from campus until the end of 2024.
“I was at a place that I was promised to be safe and UF didn’t keep that promise,” she said. “UF should take women’s safety more seriously. We’re lucky that something (worse) didn’t happen.”
The woman said the State Attorney’s Office did not notify her until early Monday about Mason’s sentence. She said she had offered to testify at Mason’s hearing.
A spokesman for the prosecutor’s office, Darry Lloyd, said prosecutors kept in touch with victims throughout the process and victims did not consistently press for harsher penalties.
“We talked to multiple victims and they told us multiple things,” he said.
Mason’s lawyer, Yolanda Means of Gainesville, said the judge initially did not want to accept the plea agreement but the sides explained to him how it would resolve the criminal case.
“We believe in punishment, but we also believe in rehabilitation,” Means said.
In one video obtained by police, Mason was seen crawling across a bathroom floor to record his victims.
“I am not a rapist,” he told police, according to court records. “You know, I’m not sitting out here, looking at you with a drooly mouth or anything. It’s literally like, it’s the rush of being caught. I don’t know, man, I’m sorry.” He added: “You know, I was trying to fight a battle with myself that I shouldn’t have. I didn’t know where to turn.”
It wasn’t clear from court records whether Mason kept the videos and photographs for himself or shared or sold them online.
Mason has been investigated in incidents at the University of Minnesota, University of Miami, University of Central Florida and Palm Beach Atlantic University, according to court records and police interviews.
Mason was charged with a peeping misdemeanor at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis after two women in October 2021 said he tried to peer under a dorm shower, according to court records. They said he fled when they confronted him. Police said they tracked him through surveillance cameras and rental car records.
Mason failed to appear in court, and court records showed that an arrest warrant was issued in March. He also has faced misdemeanor charges in Illinois for aggravated and battery assault, violating a restraining order and vandalism since 2016.
In November 2021, Mason was accused of photographing women in the library bathroom at the University of Central Florida, according to police records. A student said she saw Mason hold his phone over the stall divider and record her in an engineering building bathroom. She confronted him and he immediately said he had just ended a relationship with his girlfriend, police said. The victim asked to see his phone but he fled the scene.
Police there studied surveillance video on campus and identified Mason driving a vehicle that belonged to family members. They said he was wearing a distinctive hat that he also wore in photographs on his mother’s Facebook page.
Campus police in Orlando notified an intelligence-sharing group for all university police chiefs across Florida with Mason’s description and asked whether any had experienced similar cases. That was how some of the other cases came to light: The University of Miami said it had a similar incident in April 2021, and another officer said Mason was a suspect in an incident at Palm Beach Atlantic University, which banned him from campus in 2020 for being in a women’s dorm without permission, police said.
In December, the University of Florida warned students about a man suspected of using a cell phone to illegally record young women in two dormitories and a library. In one UF dorm, he used his blue iPhone 11 to record an accuser undressing in the shower, court records said. Once the accuser saw him, he fled.
Police arrested him on Dec. 7 when license-plate cameras alerted police that the vehicle he was driving was back on the University of Central Florida campus. Mason acknowledged that he had photographed a student in a bathroom stall at an engineering building on campus there, according to court records.
Mason’s mother, Arlinda “Tray” Johns, told the judge last week she believes this will be the start of the rest of her son’s life.
“I don’t condone what he did but he’s my son,” Johns said. “I’m here to show what he needs to be accountable for and show that with love.”
This story was produced by Fresh Take Florida, a news service of the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. The reporter can be reached at email@example.com. You can donate to support our students here.