A recent autism diagnosis might explain why a Tacoma postal carrier harassed and inappropriately touched women on his route for a decade, but it does not excuse the behavior, a judge said Wednesday.
“There’s a failure I think to understand the clear refusal of advances,” Pierce County Superior Court Judge Stanley Rumbaugh said at the sentencing of Robert Taitano. “That doesn’t excuse the advances.”
Taitano, 55, pleaded guilty to attempted third-degree assault, criminal trespass, harassment and fourth-degree assault, all misdemeanor crimes with sexual motivation.
Rumbaugh sentenced Taitano to four months in jail and four years of supervision.
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Taitano also will be required to register as a sex offender and seek specialized psychosexual treatment designed for individuals with autism, which defense attorney Michael Stewart said he has started.
Women complained to the Postal Service for more than 10 years that Taitano harassed them by making sexual comments, inappropriately touching them, and entering their homes and businesses without permission.
He since has resigned, Stewart told the court.
“Mr. Taitano has not been employed by the Postal Service since May 28 of this year,” local spokesman Ernie Swanson confirmed Tuesday.
Taitano understands now that his victims felt fear, but did not see that at the time, his attorney told Rumbaugh.
“His interactions with other people are something he misconstrues and simply doesn’t understand,” Stewart said.
The attorney told the court an evaluation after Taitano was charged diagnosed the autism and suggested it likely was the basis for much of Taitano’s behavior in connection with the crimes.
Taitano was born in Guam and served in the Marines for 17 years, fixing generators, before he was honorably discharged and retired, Stewart said.
“He is a person who works well under direct supervision,” the attorney told the court.
Police reports indicate that although more than a dozen women complained to the Postal Service about Taitano’s behavior starting in the early 2000s, the agency did not inform police.
The incidents alleged in charging papers happened in South Tacoma. One victim told police Taitano grabbed her butt and stalked and harassed her as he delivered mail to her business.
Another, Meosha Turner, told the court Wednesday she started taking anxiety medication and sought counseling, after Taitano entered her apartment unannounced last year and asked if she was married.
“I am happy that he is getting treatment,” she said to The News Tribune about his sentence. “If that is his evaluation, then I feel that this is fair.”
Taitano briefly addressed the court.
“I am very sorry for the experience that they had,” he told the judge, “that it hurt them. I will not harm them, sir. I pray for their healing and peace.”