Thursday, July 31, 2008

And the winner is...

6:30 AM I love Thursday morning’s—so full of anticipation. What will the venerable weekly Amherst Bulletin, available around 10:30 AM, deem important enough for Front Page treatment—especially that valuable location above the fold?

So we will have "Chinese Charter School wins Federal Grant"--but probably not above the fold as they’re mad I scooped them (and my daughter is a student). Monday night’s Select Board meeting and the entertaining antics of ‘His Lordship’ Gerry Weiss will of course produce another two: "SB caves to ghost of hippy activist and changes election to replace X-Czar Awad" (well maybe that’s a tad wordy) and of course little old me: "His Lordship wants Kelley pilloried in Town Square".

Hmm…the election story should get top billing.

10:45 AM Okay, I was almost perfect: The Election screw up was the lead story--but they used a “Pull quote” to hype His Lordship’s attempt at censor/silencing me (so in a sense the story still made the Front Page, above the fold). Chinese Charter School story just below the fold.

Of course the other funny thing is, once again, I have scooped the Bully with their own paper. They really need to light a fire under their I.T. person and make the WWW sooner.

Yeah, whenever they publish I will post the link to the "stalker story", carried in yesterday's Gazette. Reporter Scott Merzbach added more, however, which is good. He interviewed a police officer who subtly pointed out the state stalker law is designed for "domestic abuse" situations and also requires a "pattern" of abuse (not one visit to her South Hadley home on a public road located over 100 yards from their front door in the middle of the afternoon). Something Greg Saulman also pointed out in his fine MassLive Local Buzz op-ed piece.


Greg Saulmon said...

My short Op-Ed take on Monday's meeting:

LarryK4 said...

Hey Greg,
On the money!

Glad you guys still live (even if only in cyberspace)

Anonymous said...

No, the stalking statute is not limited to domestic abuse, although that's where it is probably most frequently applied: angry ex-boyfriends.

But the word "pattern" is very important. One instance of potentially offensive or threatening conduct is not enough.

I'm intrigued by your suggestion that the throwing around of this word "stalking" in the public discussion is trivializing it, especially for people who are actually experiencing the behavior in question.

I got one of the first jury verdicts for "stalking" in Springfield District Court after the statute was enacted. The woman was traumatized. As always, she had to summon up the courage to testify against her abuser.

These are not words to be thrown around on a whim, OR to score political points with an otherwise uninformed public.

Rich Morse

Neil said...

RM, Great post on the stalking law... that it applies to everyone not just domestic partners and the essential "pattern" component. Thank you, its always good to read the expert.

But this part confused me:
I'm intrigued by your suggestion that the throwing around of this word "stalking" in the public discussion is trivializing it, especially for people who are actually experiencing the behavior in question.

I don't see that language here, the language "throwing around of this word 'stalking' in the public discussion is trivializing it." So please explain if you will.

The facts you post about the stalking law made me realize that the discussion at the Select Board Monday demonstrated a limited understanding of that law nor were they particularly interested in understanding whether it might be applicable nevermind it's a matter between the police/DA and the accused. It was enough for them to use the word, without knowledge of its characteristics with regard to the statute, for what can be described only as a political purpose, a resolution that condemns a person for his actions.

If the Select Board is going to have a trial, maybe you could advise on procedure and legal opinion. (It's a joke but not really.)

Anonymous said...

I am not responding in this blog in my capacity as a prosecutor, but strictly as a private citizen.

Larry has suggested elsewhere in this blog (I can't remember where) that the use of the words "stalking" and "harassment" by Awad and Weiss demean or trivialize the experience of people confronting the actual behavior connoted by those words. And I guess that I agree.

"Stalking" and "harassment" are conclusory words, which is why I think it's dangerous for public officials either in meetings or in the papers to be using them casually. (I as a prosecutor, for example, before or during a trial, could not say publicly that the accused John Doe was "stalking" because that would be assuming something that had to be proved to and decided by a factfinder, a jury or a judge.) Both words now are attached to criminal offenses in Massachusetts, criminal offenses that required repeated, specific acts committed with specific states of mind. They are written into the law to be VERY specific acts and VERY specific states of mind, because the charges criminalize a lot of behavior that would otherwise be perfectly legal, such as if the primary intent of the behavior, ill-advised or not, was to raise ethical questions about an
elected official. In other words, these criminal statutes navigate a very narrow ground between various fundamental rights of a free society, the importance of many of which have been asserted by contributors to this blog.

But when Ms. Awad and Mr. Weiss use these words repeatedly without reflection to refer to Mr. Kelley's behavior, they are essentially stating publicly that he has committed one or more crimes. I don't think that that's for them to decide.

Therefore,in the context of the public debate, in a community committed (supposedly) to the free exchange of ideas, I think that the use of these particular words by elected officials, aggrieved or not,is dangerous. But that does not seem to have occurred to either Ms. Awad or Mr. Weiss. I guess they feel that they are relatively safe condemning publicly a person of Mr. Kelley's particular identity in this way.

Rich Morse

Anonymous said...

Whichever is correct, they (Awad and Weiss) should both resign. Awad for leaving town, and Weiss because he is a dictator in sheeps clothing.

Neil said...

Mr. Morse, I concur. Thank you for taking the time to put it to words.

Anonymous said...

Stalking law concern:

I once was in a situation where I was advocating for a young (Republican) woman who was being truly threatened by various folk. I am leaving a lot out but let me just say that the UM Admin was also very concerned about this young lady's physical safety because of what was being done in a rather nasty election campaign. And I was also concerned about her emotional wellbeing....

We were told - albeit by one of the two Democrats on the UMPD force - that the stalking laws ONLY applied if she had had a domestic relationship (eg slept with) the perps. So while idealistically the law would protect everyone, the stalker law only means ex-boyfriends....

Sorry, this is my reality.

Ed Cutting

Anonymous said...

No, that's not right.

I surmise that you are referring to the requirement for the issuance of 209A restraining orders, which requires a family or dating relationship.

There is no such limitation in the stalking law. "Idealistically" the law protects everyone who can prove the very specific set of elements in the crime of stalking.

But again, I believe that "stalking" is not a word to throw around against other people in public forums. Just my personal opinion.

Rich Morse

Neil said...

I didn't know that requirement for a retraining order. In Mass, are there other restraining orders for people not in a family or dating relationships?

Anonymous said...

I was there.

I was told that if she was not in a dating relationship with one specific young man, there was NOTHING THAT COULD BE DONE. Nothing.

I had trouble believing this - as did her father a few days later - but this is what we were told and this is what was done.

Larry Kelly may or many not have done many things, but the worst that he was accused of is nothing along the lines of, say, stealing the mailing list of the Stonewall Center (gay/lesbian cultural center), fabricate Awad campaign literature under the guise of the "Rush Limbaugh Fan Club" which was truly repulsively homophobic to the point of inciting violence, and the deliver it to the homes of every member of the gay association.

There was more, a lot more. Kids being told to expect to be "knifed in the shower" if they participated in the Student Senate, fun stuff like that.

But there was no protective orders available. There weren't.

And that is why I am so troubled by this -- even if Larry actually did the worst Anne is implying, it still would be so incredibly petty compared to a far more life-threatening stalking incident for which the victim had no recourse.

Ed Cutting

Anonymous said...

Divine justice did prevail in that case, though.

The next summer, the perp ran over a street sign and nearly a man walking his dog who then called the police.

APD followed the trail of broken car parts home, using "the smell of burnt rubber in the cool night air" to help and found a car sitting in the dooryard with damage to essentially everything. Concerned for the safety of the operator - who could well have a bad head injury and had crawled off somewhere to die - they went in an unlocked door of the house and literally tripped over a pot cultivation operation which included "rotating grow trays."

I called it "justice".....

The thing people need to understand is that there are the UM students who are into drugs, leftist causes and activism and then there are those of us who simply want to be left alone. Vince does NOT speak for me....

Ed Cutting

Neil said...

If Anne Awad was told by a law enforcement authority that what Larry Kelley was not STALKING then just how far out of bounds is she by subsequently accusing him of STALKING on the public record in an official Select Board meeting, and engaging in a debate about his STALKING for a resolution to condemn his STALKING, when she was told, as a matter of law, it was not stalking.

How about "physically threaten"? Did you witness a conversation between Awad and law enforcement authority discussing her statement and their response regarding "physically threaten"?

She was told by town law enforcement officers, it is not stalking. Man, what a hump.

Is there a word for fraudulently asserting facts when you know them to be not true on the public record for political purposes beside abuse of power? Please take the question literally and not metaphorically.)

Anonymous said...

>Is there a word for fraudulently
>asserting facts when you know them
> to be not true on the public record
> for political purposes beside abuse
> of power?

Yes - slander if just verbal, libel if written. The question would arise if Larry is or isn't a public figure as the standard there (if he is) would be actual malice but could actual malice be shown?