TRAVERSE CITY — A man convicted of flashing several people during two incidents in April was sentenced to 180 days in Grand Traverse County’s jail.
Michael Gauthier, 52, pleaded no contest to two misdemeanor counts of indecent exposure in exchange for dismissal of a felony count of indecent exposure stemming from a June 24 incident. Sentencing guidelines called for up to one year in prison.
Judge Michael Stepka sentenced Gauthier on Thursday in the 86th District Court to 180 days in jail, with credit for 140 days served, and two years probation. Community Corrections will determine how Gauthier will spend the remaining 40 days.
Stephen Kane, Gauthier’s attorney, said the remainder of the jail sentence could be served on house arrest or in a halfway house or a tether house while Gauthier receives mental health treatment. Kane said it also is possible Gauthier will remain in jail but be released for treatment only.
Prosecutors filed one charge after three people reported seeing Gauthier get out of his car and walk naked around a residential area near Scenic Ridge and Creekside Drive on April 18. On April 22, a 13-year-old girl sitting in the front yard of her Blair Township home told authorities Gauthier flashed his buttocks at her after she heard him walk down the street.
Kane said the incidents in question are partially the result of damage to Gauthier’s frontal lobe after Gauthier received electroconvulsive therapy, formerly known as electroshock therapy, for treatment of his mental illness.
“This is an explanation, not an excuse,” Kane said. “He knew what was going on, but he possibly couldn’t control it. He needs this help. This is not simple help.”
Gauthier is currently wanted on a warrant in Kent County resulting from a May 31 incident. Stepka said that posed a “red flag” in his sentencing and that Gauthier runs the risk of committing another offense if released without plans for treatment.
“It appears clear you need the support and resources of mental health counseling,” Stepka said to Gauthier. “The nature of these offenses ... are quite disturbing. A balanced approach here will protect the public and provide you the help you need.”
Kane said any repeat behavior likely will result in felony charges.
“I don’t know that Michael is a danger, but I also understand people don’t want to see this. It’s certainly not appropriate,” Kane said. “There is always the concern that this is the start of something worse, but he should have that opportunity to get help.”