Woman had just sat down on toilet at North End restaurant when she noticed a phone in a nearby potted plant, videoing her

The bartender at a Salem Street restaurant was fired and could yet face criminal charges for putting his phone in a potted plant in the unisex restroom and then setting it to take video just as a woman patron was entering one night earlier this year.

An attorney for Rigoletto, 115A Salem St., acknowledged the incident was awful, but told the Boston Licensing Board this morning that the guy was planning a joke on a kitchen worker.

The woman who found herself on camera, though, took time off from work to urge the board to do what it could to make sure nobody else finds themselves in her situation. And she and two friends, who also attended, said they don't buy the joke explanation - they now wonder if there was something suspicious behind the way the bartender would always ply them with lots of water on their weekly after-work visits there.

According to police and the victim, she and two friends went to Rigoletto after work on Monday, March 19. The place was, as it usually is on Mondays, pretty empty - around 8 p.m., it was just the three women and a couple, all at the bar. The woman said that's one of the reasons they liked the place - it was usually pretty quiet.

The woman said that before they left, she went to use the restaurant's unisex, single-stall restroom. She said the bartender, whom she recognized, was in there as she entered, fiddling with a potted plant inside. He apologized, and left.

She said she closed the door and sat down on the toilet - and promptly realized there was a phone in the potted plant, facing and recording her. She said she got up, grabbed the phone and immediately deleted the video of her. "I didn't want that video to be on the Internet the next day," she testified.

She left, called one of her friends over and they grabbed the phone and immediately went up to the bartender and asked him if it were his phone. "No, that's not mine," she said he responded. "I've never seen that." The woman said it was obvious he was lying, but didn't say anything as the guy offered to try to find restaurant owner Nestor Patiño and the owner of the phone. While they were talking, the phone rang and she said somebody in the kitchen motioned to the bartender as if to indicate it was his phone.

She called 911. When the sirens approached, she said, the bartender fled down to the basement. Police say he then fled the restaurant altogether.

Patiño's attorney, Lee Rajsich, acknowledged what happened was "a disturbing incident, extremely abnormal" and said Patiño fired the bartender as soon as he learned what had happened.

Board Chairwoman Christine Pulgini asked him to explain the joke the guy was allegedly trying to play on another worker. "I dont know," Rajsich replied. "It was so irresponsible," and he couldn't fathom what the humor might have been. He said the the bartender was married and had been a good employee who had worked at Rigoletto since it opened in 2015.

Although Patiño is usually in the restaurant, he was not there that night, because he had to go across the river to the Cambridgeside Galleria to pick something up at the Apple store there, Rajsich said, offering to give the board Apple receipts to prove that.

Rajsich added Patiño held an all-staff meeting a few days later to re-emphasize he would not put up with such nonsense.

The victim added that the last time she talked to somebody at Boston Police, she got the feeling they were buying the prank argument, because the officer she spoke to said if she was looking for money, she should call the restaurant.

But she added, "It's not about money ... As minor as it is, it's an invasion of privacy." And, she continued, the fact that the restaurant was so empty at the time and "having no one to report this to, it was very, very alarming."

The board decides Thursday if Patiño could have foreseen and prevented the incident and, if so, what penalty, if any, to impose.

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Comments

even if it was a prank

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HOW WOULD THAT BE OK?!?

also, why is it relevant that he's married? morality and marriage aren't related.

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Voting is closed. 83

And if it was meant for

And if it was meant for someone else, why did he leave the phone in there when a patron went in!?

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Voting is closed. 43

why should the restaurant be in trouble?

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It sounds like they handled it properly by firing the guy and warning the other employees. The owner shouldn't need to be there every second the place is open as long as there's a manager there (which there was).

Yes, the creep should absolutely be prosecuted, no matter what his "excuse." But it doesn't seem like something the restaurant should have foreseen happening.

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Voting is closed. 35

Why?

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I'm not sure having to show up for a 30-minute hearing is that high a price to pay for what was a pretty serious incident. Yes, the board could very well decide the restaurant was not at fault for a lame prank gone horribly wrong (Pulgini seemed to indicate she was leaning this way; the other two board members did not express any opinion), but surely the victim deserves at least this one bit of (quasi) judicial action.

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Voting is closed. 25

I would prefer it pursued as

I would prefer it pursued as a criminal matter that happened to take place in a restaurant. The bartender should be answering for this, not the owner.

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Voting is closed. 36

Disagree

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Serious crime. Owners and managers should take the time to help the public vett whether they’ve got control of their business and their staff. My gut feeling is the bar should be high for certain businesses and certain crimes.

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Voting is closed. 13

Not "a lame prank gone horribly wrong"

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This was not a prank gone wrong but a violation of the Mass General Laws. Below is the text of the statute that the alleged felon seems to have violated. From what I have read, he seems to have met all of the elements to be found guilty.

M.G.L. Chapter 272 Section 105

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Voting is closed. 28

Since when is a business not

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Since when is a business not held responsible for an employee criminonally violating one of its patrons? This is a clear case of sexual assault, ridiculous anyone would think otherwise.

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I never ever EVER said it

I never ever EVER said it wasn't sexual assault.
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It's the licensing board. Not criminal court. How does this relate to the business' license? It should be pursued criminally. How is the owner potentially being fined or losing his license justice for the victim when the aggressor was fired immediately?

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Voting is closed. 9

Why shouldn't the restaurant

Why shouldn't the restaurant be in trouble? Serious criminal activity is happening on their premises, by one of their employees. Hauling them in front of the licensing board means there's at least a chance that they take it seriously instead of simply firing the guy and shrugging.

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Name?

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Do we know the merry prankster's name?

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Voting is closed. 11

Yes, we do

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To be honest, I didn't feel like naming him because he hasn't been charged by police that I could tell, but NECN named him if you're interested.

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Fair enough on the naming

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Fair enough on the naming, but FWIW I didn't see his name in the NECN link. I'll google on.

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Wait

the officer she spoke to said if she was looking for money, she should call the restaurant.

Was a cop suggesting a civil suit...or that she should blackmail somebody?

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That's meta.

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"She said there is a video of him placing the phone in the plant, and you can see him doing," the witness said. "It's unsettling."

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Voting is closed. 9

Except, no

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The restaurant does have video of the interactions between the two outside the restroom, and gave a copy to police, but the lawyer said there's no video camera recording activities in the restroom itself, for what he said were obvious reasons.

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I read that as the video is

I read that as the video is recorded on the phone, since he would have had to have left it running when he left.

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Voting is closed. 28

Funny, but not

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Read some of their responses to 1-star reviews they received on Yelp. Real classy place they are running.

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Voting is closed. 11

"boys will be boys"

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This is outrageous--

"The victim added that the last time she talked to somebody at Boston Police, she got the feeling they were buying the prank argument."

It's this wink/nudge, "no big deal," "learn to take a joke," "stop being such a bitch" attitude that has been used to discourage women from calling out assaults of all sorts. When a person has to try to press charges and is met with eye-rolling and foot dragging, it helps perpetuate this culture of unacceptable behavior. It's the Old Boys Network in action. smh

I assume that minorities and other vulnerable people must come up against the same thing.

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Voting is closed. 23