Man jailed in ‘revenge porn’ case

  • JOHN BURNETT/Tribune-Herald Gregory Payne, right, turns toward his attorney, Deputy Public Defender Sherilyn Tavares, Thursday in Hilo Circuit Court.

A 53-year-old Hilo man was ordered to report to jail Thursday to serve a six-month term he was sentenced to in October for engaging in so-called “revenge porn” against a woman with whom he had a prior sexual relationship.

Gregory William Payne pleaded no contest June 25 to first-degree violation of privacy, a Class C felony. In return for his plea, prosecutors dropped misdemeanor charges of trespassing on public school grounds and impersonating a public servant.

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The jail term is part of a four-year sentence of court supervision. Hilo Circuit Judge Henry Nakamoto allowed Payne a deferred acceptance of his no contest plea, which means the conviction will be expunged from Payne’s record if he stays out of further trouble during the supervisory period.

The judge also allowed the Hilo-born Payne — who had no prior criminal record — to delay reporting for his jail sentence until Jan. 15, then allowed Payne another delay until Thursday so he could “sit for exams,” according to court records.

On Thursday, Payne’s attorney, Deputy Public Defender Sherilyn Tavares, asked the judge to once again consider delaying the start of Payne’s jail term or to allow Payne to serve his sentence on weekends “until he takes the exam.” Upon questioning by Nakamoto, Tavares said Payne — who was ordered by the court to undergo mental health treatment — is studying “marriage and family counseling.”

“He’s completed all his clinical hours with Hilo Counseling Center, so he’s … just waiting,” Tavares said, for a date to take the licensing exam.

Deputy Prosecutor Rick Damerville said the state “strongly opposes” any further delay in Payne serving his jail term.

“The victim in this case has a right to see the sentence being closed and not dragged on forever,” Damerville said. “It’s been dragged on for a long time. He can study for his exam while he’s in jail.”

The judge then asked Tavares if her client was ready to report to jail. Tavares replied she advised Payne to be prepared for that possibility.

“I’ll note that the sentencing on this matter was on October 18, 2018, almost six months ago, and the court has granted several continuances at this point. So the court will not delay any further,” Nakamoto said.

On Jan. 1, 2016, Payne, then a substitute teacher, engaged in consensual sex with the woman on the grounds of E.B. de Silva Elementary School outside school hours. He also photographed the woman during the encounter without her permission while she was blindfolded.

Payne then signed the name of a Department of Education official on a letter written on DOE letterhead and sent it to a professional associate of the woman — and included a photo or photos of the sexual encounter.

Payne’s actions violated a 2014 expansion of violation of privacy laws that address revenge porn. The expansion includes “knowingly disclosing an image or video of another identifiable person either in the nude or engaging in sexual conduct without the consent of the depicted person with intent to harm substantially the depicted person.”

“Today, I finally received long awaited closure and can now continue my healing journey,” the victim said in an email following the hearing.

The Tribune-Herald isn’t publishing the name of the woman, identified only by initials in charging documents.

“This matter has been in the court system for almost two years with multiple continuances to include allowing him to sit for exams to obtain a degree in mental health counseling …,” she said. “I cannot comprehend how an individual convicted of a crime with mental health issues of his own, is even allowed to obtain such education and even worse, allowed to practice to the general public.

“Gregory Payne waived his right to a speedy trial. As a victim, I had no such rights and had no choice but to endure the pain and suffering as a result, often feeling as though I was the one serving a sentence.”

The woman said Payne sent similar letters and photographs as the one for which he was sentenced to about 30 individuals, including other professional associates and the woman’s children and a sibling.

Payne originally was indicted on 37 charges in March 2017, including 19 felony invasion of privacy charges. Those charges were later dismissed because of a legal technicality, and Payne was subsequently charged with the single felony he pleaded to, plus the two misdemeanor charges dropped as part of the plea deal.

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“As a victim and concerned lifelong Big Island citizen, I believe it is very important to make the public aware should they consider seeking mental health services from Gregory Payne in the future,” the woman said. “I encourage those to please exercise extreme caution and not allow an individual with mental health issues of his own to attempt to provide mental health care to others.”

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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