Court overturns cyberstalking conviction
Adding insult to injury to former State Rep. Douglas Gablinske, the Superior Court last week overturned former NEARI official John Leidecker's conviction of cyberstalking the representative in 2010.
Superior Court Judge Susan E. McGuirl decided to dismiss the case on Wednesday, July 30, after an appeal was sent to the higher court. In September 2011, District Court Judge Isherwood found Mr. Leidecker guilty of cyberstalking after he admitted to setting up a fake e-mail using the name Douglas Gablinski (with an ‘I’) to “mock” then-Rep. Gablinske during his 2010 write-in re-election campaign. Mr. Leidecker reportedly sent dozens of e-mail messages that misrepresented Mr. Gablinske’s political positions.
“This legal matter involving Mr. Leidecker has from the start been a criminal matter, not a civil matter,” Mr. Gablinske said in regard to last week’s decision. “It is unfortunate that Judge McGuirl made the ruling that she did, particularly since another judge thought there was enough evidence to issue a search warrant for Mr. Liedecker’s computers at the offices of NEARI.”
Mr. Gablinske, who represented Bristol and Warren in the General Assembly, said he sees the decision as a win for criminals who resort to bullying and intimidation.
“The message the judge sends to all Rhode Islanders, elected officials, stake holders in the electoral process and the school children of this state, would encourage, rather than punish these types of intimidating and illegal actions,” he said.
The decision to dismiss the case was based on timing, as the type of cyberstalking Mr. Leidecker engaged in was not yet criminal at the time.
“We recognize the decision by Judge McGuirl and understand the statutory limitations of the law under which Mr. Leidecker was charged,” Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin said in a written statement after the decision was rendered.
In recognition of “problems” with the state’s cyberstalking statute, Mr. Kilmartin put forward legislation to create a new offense of online impersonation. Since the time of Mr. Leidecker’s actions, the General Assembly passed and the governor signed legislation that prohibits people from using the name or persona of another — even a public official's — to create a webpage, post messages on a social networking site or send electronic communications without the person’s consent and with intent to harm or defraud.