MILWAUKEE – A Wisconsin man whose camcorder was briefly stolen has found a way to get back at the suspected thief: He uploaded to YouTube a video that the suspect took with the camera, a clip in which the man reveals his name, shows his face and admits he stole the camera.
Chris Rochester, 25, of La Crosse, said his camera was stolen a few weeks ago from the car of his boss, Republican state Senate candidate Bill Feehan. Police eventually arrested the suspect and returned the camera to Rochester, who set it aside.
Then, when Gov. Scott Walker made a recent visit to La Crosse, Rochester used the camera to film the event. When he went back to retrieve the video, he found 20 other segments the suspect apparently recorded.
Most were uneventful, generally 15- to 20-second clips of television screens. But one video caught Rochester's eye.
"This is my house, yes, and a stolen camera that I stole. But it's OK, the cop won't figure it out," the suspect says in the 79-second video, as he pans around a home and points out the kitchen and bathroom. Later he adds, "Oh yeah, to introduce you, my name is Houaka Yang. So yeah, how do you do."
Finally, he turns the camera to reveal his face and says with a smile, "And this is me. Hi."
The 20-year-old Yang was scheduled to make an initial appearance in court Wednesday, but the judge recused himself because he knew one of the victims. A new court date wasn't immediately scheduled.
Yang was charged with two counts of being party to misdemeanor theft and one misdemeanor count of carrying a concealed weapon. The charges carry a maximum penalty of two years and three months in jail and a $30,000 fine.
A message left with Yang's public defender Wednesday was not immediately returned.
Rochester said he almost disregarded the videos on his camera, thinking maybe he'd accidentally hit the 'record' button.
"Then it hit me pretty quickly as to what it was," he said. "I was astounded. I was like, 'Wow, I can't believe this.'"
Yang was already in custody, but Rochester decided to have fun with the video by sharing it with friends. So he uploaded it to YouTube under the title "Confessions of a stupid criminal: Thief is sure he won't get caught."
As reporters began asking him about the video he began to realize it was more entertaining than he first thought, he said.
Police recovered the videocamera after investigating a number of other thefts in the area. Rochester said he didn't think Feehan had been targeted as a Republican political candidate.
Security videos at Feehan's home showed two suspects rifling through the car in his driveway. Investigators showed the footage to officials at a local high school, who identified one suspect, La Crosse police Sgt. Randy Rank said. The 14-year-old in turn identified Yang, he said.
Rank said police weren't concerned that Rochester uploaded the video even though Yang's case is still pending.
"It's his recorder, those are his images on there," Rank said. "I don't see an issue with it."
YouTube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wmY_gFcBsvw
Dinesh Ramde can be reached at dramde(at)ap.org.