Apartment owner pleads no contest to peeping

A Lawrence apartment owner Wednesday avoided a trial when he declined to challenge criminal charges that he spied on tenants.

William J. Lemesany, 49, pleaded no contest to three of 10 misdemeanor counts of eavesdropping. The remaining counts were dismissed under a plea agreement with the Douglas County district attorney.

Lemesany, appearing with his attorney Mike Riling, entered the pleas on the same day he was to begin a bench trial before Judge Jack Murphy.

Lemesany was charged in October 2000 after Lawrence Police investigated reports of peepholes in the walls of rooms in Parkway Terrace Apartments, 2340 Murphy Drive. The peepholes had been discovered in January 1999 by tenants.

The holes allowed views into the apartments from maintenance hallways that ran between the apartments. Traces of semen were found near the peepholes in those hallways, according to prosecutors and court documents.

The semen was examined by forensic biologists with the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. Had the trial proceeded, DNA evidence would have been offered, Jerry Little, a former assistant district attorney, said during the plea hearing. KBI tests linked Lemesany to the semen samples, Little said.

Little initially handled the case against Lemesany but has since become a Lawrence Municipal Court prosecutor. He appeared Wednesday on behalf of the District Attorney’s Office because Assistant Dist. Atty. Trent Krug, who took over the case, was in court on another trial.

Little said there was no “rhyme or reason” in deciding which three of the 10 charges Lemesany would plead to.

Each count of eavesdropping carries a maximum sentence of a year in the county jail and a $2,500 fine. Lemesany could be placed on probation instead of serving jail time.

Prosecutors also asked for restitution for KBI lab fees.

Murphy ordered a psychiatric evaluation prior to sentencing. Little said the District Attorney’s Office did not oppose probation for Lemesany if he followed the recommendations made in the evaluation report.

Lemesany is to be sentenced at 1:30 p.m. Nov. 19.

In the months after the peepholes were discovered, tenants filed 25 civil lawsuits against Lemesany and his wife, Mary Lemesany, who is co-owner of the apartment complex. All were settled out of court or are in the process of being settled except for six cases, court officials said Wednesday.

Those six cases went to trial two weeks ago. On Oct. 8 a jury assessed damages totaling $1.29 million against the Lemesanys and for the plaintiffs. Lemesany can ask for a new trial or appeal the verdict.

As the civil trial began, the Lemesanys admitted liability for the peepholes without admitting fault. The civil trial was only to determine damages.

“Bill Lemesany has never apologized and has never said ‘I did it,’ said Peter Jouras Jr., a Fairway attorney who represented the plaintiffs in the civil trial and who sat in on the plea hearing. “He has never accepted any responsibility for any of this.”

Mary Lemesany did not face criminal charges.

After the plea hearing, Lemesany and Riling quickly left the courtroom without commenting.

The Lawrence Journal-World previously published a photo of an individual whom it identified as William Lemesany. That was not William Lemesany. The Journal-World apologizes for the error.