The Lawrence Eagle Tribune reported on Saturday that an Andover couple was arrested during their morning jog yesterday on charges of criminal harassment, conspiracy, identity fraud, and filing a frivolous report of child abuse. It is alleged that the defendants, William and Gail Johnson, made fabricated reports to the state Department of Social Services and phony online advertisements containing personal information used to target James Lyons Jr., a resident of 12 High Vale Lane and a neighbor of the Johnsons. The prosecution contends that the motive for the crimes was an existing land dispute between the defendants and Lyons, their neighbor. Nominal bails were set in this case. $2,000 for William Johnson and $1,000 for Gail Johnson. A third defendant, Gerald Colton of Lowell was arraigned in June on related charges. The charges stem from the following facts. In March of 2008 Lyons contacted Andover police after postings on the Web site Craigslist.org listed his name, address and phone numbers. The initial posting, an advertisement for the sale of nine used golf carts, attracted potential buyers to Lyons’ home. After the posting was taken off the Web site, it appeared again the next day, along with a new post advertising the sale of a 1973 Harley-Davidson motorcycle for $300. The posting claimed the motorcycle belonged to Lyons’ “late son,” a statement Lyons believed was a threat directed at one of his two sons, ages 13 and 14. Emails referencing the golf cart and motorcycle sales were were linked to Colton’s computer which was seized after his arrest. Also on his computer was personal information pertaining to Lyons and his family. In March, Lyons reported to police that someone had attempted to open up bank accounts using his personal information. He also reported that someone had signed him up as a member of the Florida-based American Association for Nude Recreation. Also in March 2008, social service workers appeared at Lyons home to speak with his 14 year old son regarding fabricated criminal sexual assault allegations. Additional fabricated allegations directed to Lyons were also reported to the Department of Social Services. The harassment continued into April of 2008. Then, Lyons received a letter from BioGift Anatomical Inc. stating that he had already expressed his interest in “donating his body for medical science when he passes away,” a statement Lyons considered a “direct threat on his life”. Also in April, false allegations regarding Lyons’ businesses prompted a visit from the board of health. Again in April 2008 Lyons was sent a letter implicating him in a past case of molestation by a fictionalized former employee. Read entire article, Lawrence Eagle Tribune, October 18, 2008.
Harassment in Massachusetts is a criminal act in accordance with Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 265 Section 43A. The statute states in part that “[w]hoever willfully and maliciously engages in a knowing pattern of conduct or series of acts over a period of time directed at a specific person, which seriously alarms that person and would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress, shall be guilty of the crime of criminal harassment and shall be punished by imprisonment in a house of correction for not more than two and one-half years or by a fine of not more than $1,000, or by both such fine and imprisonment. Such conduct or acts described in this paragraph shall include, but not be limited to, conduct or acts conducted by mail or by use of a telephonic or telecommunication device including, but not limited to, electronic mail, internet communications or facsimile communications.” The harassment statute tracks the stalking statute, except that the stalking statute contains the additional element of making a threat to induce fear of death or bodily injury. Here, the prosecution contends that reference to one of the victim’s “late” sons’ was a threat to one of the sons where both were in fact alive. The threat to Lyons himself stemmed from the letter concerning him donating his body to science.
Our office has handled stalking and harassment cases successfully for years. Typically these cases are prosecuted in the district courts in Massachusetts. In cases where someone who has already been convicted of this crime is found guilty again a state prison sentence is permitted. Making sure you have an experienced Massachusetts harassment defense lawyer is important. Call our office to discuss your case now.
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