"Harassment via Internet a crime, SJC rules; Decision upholds
convictions of pair who targeted neighbors in Andover" by John R.
Ellement and Travis Andersen, Globe Staff December 23, 2014
The state’s highest court ruled Tuesday that people who use the Internet to harass someone can be prosecuted under
existing state law, a decision that upheld the conviction of an Andover
couple who were linked to false ads on Craigslist and who filed a fake
claim of child abuse against a neighbor.
Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett, whose office prosecuted the
case, said the ruling from the Supreme Judicial Court was the first time
the panel clearly authorized law enforcement to use the state’s
antiharassment statute in cybercrimes.
“Cyberharassment is becoming more prevalent in today’s society and the victims in this case were tormented by the defendants,’’ Blodgett said. “This case sends the right message that it is a crime, and a serious one.”
I saw what they say the case was about, but this is a slippery slope.
Say goodbye to free speech.
Only in Massachusetts!
They didn't get the president's memo?
The 7-0 ruling left intact the harassment convictions for William P.
Johnson and his wife, Gail M. Johnson, who wanted to subdivide and
develop land in Andover, but were opposed by an abutting neighbor, James
J. Lyons Jr., and his wife, Bernadette, along with other neighbors.
That dispute preceded the harassment campaign by the Johnsons, the high court said.
So often disputes are about LAND (and what's usually under it), and
yet so many other excuses -- religion, ethnicity, what have you -- are
tossed before us by the propaganda pre$$.
As part of the harassment, William Johnson called in a false allegation of child abuse against James Lyons with the state Department of Children and Families, according to the SJC.
When are newspapers and government officials and authority going to answer for that?
“They literally tried to have our kids taken away from us,’’ James
Lyons, who is now a state representative, said in a telephone interview.
“These people invested time and money to torture my wife, my boys, and myself.’’
Well, let's not get carried away here. I mean, were you waterboarded? Did you have your genitalia cut?
Robert S. Sinsheimer, an attorney for the Johnsons, said in a statement
that they were disappointed by the SJC’s decision and were considering
their legal options. The Johnsons lived on the same street as the Lyons
“Where the sole purpose of the defendants’ speech was to further their endeavor to intentionally harass the Lyonses, such speech is not protected by the First Amendment,” Justice Robert Cordy wrote in the ruling.
According to the SJC ruling, during a 35-day period in 2008 the Johnsons
enlisted a longtime friend and handyman, Gerald Colton, who sent the
Lyonses an e-mail falsely claiming that James Lyons “stole the innocence of a young man,” and posted fake ads on Craigslist.
One of those ads said that the Lyonses were giving away golf carts for
free, prompting dozens of people to show up outside the couple’s home.
“The Craigslist postings were the equivalent of the defendants
recruiting others to harass the victims and the victims alone,” Cordy
wrote. “The defendants cannot launder their harassment of the Lyons
family through the Internet to escape liability.”
Another ad said the family was selling a Harley-Davidson motorcycle and
told interested parties to call after 10 p.m., generating many nighttime
calls that continued for months, the ruling said.
One e-mail that Colton sent to the Lyons family from a fake account, the
SJC said, read, “Remember, if you aren’t miserable, I ain’t happy!
Colton had testified for the prosecution and said that William Johnson had told him he had sent James Lyons a letter accusing him of molesting a teenager, which was false.
The Johnsons were convicted in Lawrence District Court in late 2011.
William Johnson was sentenced to 18 months behind bars; his wife was
given a six-month sentence to serve.
Alan M. Dershowitz, a prominent attorney and retired Harvard Law professor, said it is rare for defendants to receive jail time for such conduct, adding that the Johnsons’ behavior was particularly egregious.
I no longer listen, sorry.
“Was the [SJC] opinion too broad? I think time will tell,” Dershowitz
said. “I would hope it would be applied in a very narrow way.”
The ruling does not appear to encroach on the free speech rights of Internet users,
according to Harvey A. Silverglate, a criminal defense lawyer and civil
libertarian who has written extensively on First Amendment issues.
“I don’t think this opinion imposes a risk of squelching protected speech on the Internet,” Silverglate said. “It isn’t very hard to figure out that what these people were doing is very threatening, and it’s not the kind of speech that a civilized society wants to tolerate.”
My head sunk as I read that from a lawyer who is supposed to be defending it say that.
Free Speech is inviolate. It's not something to be picked and choosed
at. I know, fire in a movie theater, but other than that.... you are
only in favor of free speech if you are for speech you are against, and I
will address that shortly.
Sameer Hinduja, a criminology professor at Florida Atlantic University
and codirector of the Cyberbullying Research Center, said online harassment is not confined to young children and adolescents.
Hinduja pointed to a recent Pew Research Internet Project study that
found that 40 percent of adult Internet users have experienced online harassment.
“I agree with the court’s decision, absolutely,” Hinduja said.
“You have really crazy sorts of things
being done [in the case]. It’s really willful, it’s really intentional.
. . . I like that [the SJC] labeled it criminal conduct.”
Hinduja said laws barring online harassment are necessary, even if they do not always deter offenders. “We do need to have laws for egregious situations to send a message in our society, with the social contract that we all agree to, that this is unacceptable,” he said.
Martin G. Weinberg, a Boston defense lawyer who has litigated cybercrime cases, said in an e-mail that the ruling helps define criminal conduct in the realm of Internet communications.
You can almost feel Free Speech slip slidin' away in Massachusetts.....
“Judges nationwide, from the Supreme Court to the state courts, have an historic challenge of taking a Bill of Rights written in the 18th century and making it meaningful in a very different world of computers and technology,” Weinberg wrote.
He's supposed to be a defender, and yet he's collaborating in its destruction through the back door.
Could even cost you your job.
Now about free speech. I'm also for that pos link and propaganda
piece called the Boston Globe. It has the right to put out its slop,
too, we all do! That's what free speech is! It's up to the reader to
decide what the truth is. I'm only a guide and giving it from
my inquisitive perspective. It's up to you, reader, to decide your own
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Related: Anonymous For Not Much Longer
Remember last year's Xmas?
"Online vendetta leads to $4.8m jury award for lawmaker" by Stephanie Ebbert Globe Staff May 25, 2015
Imagine coming home to find strangers in your driveway, looking for the free golf carts you’ve ostensibly advertised on Craigslist. Then comes an e-mail from someone who knows your Social Security number and who warns ominously, “Let the Games Begin.”
Within days come allegations that you molested a teenage boy years ago. Child abuse investigators show up on your doorstep, asking to inspect your son for bruises.
This series of horrors was inflicted upon the family of James J. Lyons Jr. in 2008, two years before he was elected to the state House of Representatives. Two neighbors were sent to jail for criminal harassment, and the state’s highest court issued a landmark decision affirming the state’s antiharassment statute could be applied to cyberharassment.
Now, a civil jury has awarded Lyons and his family and business an eye-popping $4.8 million verdict, agreeing that their neighbors intentionally inflicted emotional distress on the family for opposing their proposed subdivision.
Related: Chang-Diaz Attic Above it All
“The jury, acting as the conscience of the community, made a very clear statement: Cyberbullying and harassment on social media will not be tolerated,” said Lyons’s attorney, Michael Gillis. “Everyone has the right to live without fear in their own home.”
Are there drones flying above your house?
David Stein, an attorney for the defendants, William and Gail Johnson, would not comment, but last week filed notice of an appeal in Essex Superior Court, according to a clerk.
These days, the property Lyons calls the Barn on Highvale Lane in Andover is the site of campaign events and Republican get-togethers. Lyons, who was elected in 2010, is hosting a meet-and-greet with US senator and presidential hopeful Ted Cruz there on May 30.
But he had lived there since 1986, and the Johnsons, since 2000.
Neighborly relations soured in 2003 after William Johnson proposed building a subdivision on a large tract of land abutting Lyons’s property. Lyons led objections by neighbors who pursued several legal maneuvers — all unsuccessful — trying to reverse the local planning board’s approval.
According to court documents, Johnson reached out to an old friend and sometime handyman, saying, “I got a pal of mine up the street I want to pull a prank on.” The two began reminiscing about the “pranks” they used to play as kids — sending pizzas and cabs to people’s homes.
“This is 2008,” the old friend and sometime handyman told him, according to one of the legal briefs. “You don’t send cabs anymore. We’ll use the Internet.”
What ensued, prosecutors alleged in court, was a 35-day odyssey of harassment that tormented the Lyons family and left them fearful for their safety.
“It felt like you were under siege every day,” said Lyons’s wife, Bernadette, in an interview. “You didn’t know what was going to happen.”
After the golf cart episode, Lyons was bombarded by late-night calls on his cellphone; another Craigslist ad for a used motorcycle instructed interested buyers to call him after 10 p.m.
The messages got more sinister when an e-mail listing the Lyonses’ birth dates and Social Security numbers stated, “Remember, if you aren’t miserable, I ain’t happy. Let’s Play.”
Then came messages from someone calling himself Brian, alleging Lyons had molested him as a teenage employee at his ice cream shop years earlier.
One night, Department of Children and Families investigators showed up on the Lyonses’ doorstep after fielding a child abuse hotline call. Their eighth-grade son, who had MCAS tests the next day, had to be hauled out of bed to show he was not bruised.
The Lyonses were panicked. The boys played football; what if they’d had bruises that day?
“It was the most frightening thing that any parent can go through,” Bernadette Lyons said. “You know after a report goes out that they have the power to take your kid away.”
I admit the dispute was taken way too far; however, $5 million in damages?
While Johnson was convicted of falsely reporting the child abuse claim, prosecutors traced online activity back to the friend, who cooperated with investigators and said he had been harassing the family at the Johnsons’ behest. Prosecutors unearthed e-mails between the friend and Gail Johnson, providing identifying information on the neighbor she dubbed “Mr. Meanie” and prodding the friend to act.
But they can't find the drug dealers, perverts, hackers, etc, etc.
The Johnsons fought the criminal charges, and tried unsuccessfully to impeach their one-time friend as a cooperating witness: He had a prior criminal conviction for planting an explosive device in the car of a person he was harassing, court documents show.
But in 2011, both Johnsons were convicted on the criminal harassment charges. William Johnson served 18 months in prison, while Gail Johnson served six months.
In an interview, William Johnson denied involvement, putting all blame for the harassment on their friend.
“Remorse?” Johnson questioned, suggesting he had no need for it. “I never solicited [him] and I never directed him to do anything.”
“He’s just a practical joker,” he added, explaining his one-time friend’s involvement. “He thought it was funny. Show me some evidence other than his testimony.”
The Johnsons appealed their convictions to the Supreme Judicial Court, arguing the conduct was all constitutionally protected free speech.
The Supreme Judicial Court unanimously disagreed.
Now, the civil jury has also found in favor of Lyons, issuing an award last month that totaled $4.8 million. Lyons’s attorney said the award will be inflated to $8.3 million due to interest owed on the case. The Johnsons’ one-time friend was not named as a defendant.
Lyons said he never thought about the money but the jury “just confirmed what the judge said when he sentenced the Johnsons — this behavior is reprehensible.”
Said his lawyer, Gillis: “Hopefully a judgment like this has a deterrent effect on others who think this might be funny.”
Also see: SJC to decide if real estate agents are staff or contractors
That's really $cary.