John Leidecker, a staffer with the National Education Association of Rhode Island (NEARI), was convicted in September 2011 of cyberstalking State Representative Douglas Gablinske, a Bristol resident who represented parts of Warren and Bristol in the General Assembly (District 68) from 2007 to 2010.
Mr. Leidecker and his attorney, Robert Mann, seek to have that conviction thrown out and appeared in court last week along with Mr. Gablinske, his attorney and representatives from the state Attorney General’s Office, who oppose Mr. Leidecker’s bid for dismissal. The next stop for the case is a meeting Wednesday, Jan. 29, at which a judge will schedule a date to hear oral arguments from both sides.
Mr. Leidecker was convicted of sending out bogus e-mails under a name similar to Rep. Gablinske’s, in which he misrepresented Rep. Gablinske’s stance on Mt. Hope Bridge tolls, to which he was opposed. Speculation was that Mr. Leidecker’s intent was to discredit Rep. Gablinske, who during his two terms in office had been critical of state unions, including the education union, by calling for pension reform and other issues unpopular with state unions.
Mr. Gablinske heard of the e-mails, contacted the Bristol police and Mr. Leidecker was arrested after an investigation. He pleaded not guilty to the charge, saying his actions were part of political discourse and thus were protected free speech.
A Superior Court judge disagreed and in September 2011 found Mr. Leidecker guilty of cyberstalking.
Rep. Gablinske ultimately lost the 2010 primary race for the office to Richard Morrison, a Democrat whose run was heavily funded by state unions, including that which continues to employ Mr. Leidecker.
Rep. Gablinske wrote in a letter to the court that he believes Mr. Leidecker’s conviction should stand:
“If fear and intimidation weren’t the aim, he added, “he would have used his right to ‘free speech’ and acted like a man and said what he had to say publicly, and not hidden like a coward behind the cloak and dagger cyber world.”