Leidecker Appeal of Cyberstalking Conviction – What Will the A.G.’s Office Do?


Observers of Rhode Island politics will remember well that, in September 2011, John Leidecker, an official of the National Education Association of Rhode Island (NEARI), was convicted of cyberstalking state Representative Douglas Gablinske.

Mr. Leidecker has appealed his conviction, as he said he would. The RI Judiciary’s Web site reflects that a “Status Conference” has been scheduled for this Thursday in RI Superior Court.

The Current-Anchor has obtained Mr. Leidecker’s Motion to Dismiss, as well as the four page letter that Mr. Gablinske filed with the court.

The motion, signed by Leidecker’s attorney, Robert Mann, argues that the state cannot prove that Leidecker’s “sole purpose” was to harass Gablinske, as required by the relevant statute.  The phrases that the motion highlights, as well as the brief subsequent commentary, suggest that Leidecker’s contention is that his “political dispute” with the former representative was both Constitutionally protected and served a “legitimate purpose.”

The motion further suggests the state’s response to the motion will determine whether a trial for the appeal is necessary, to the extent that the state cannot produce contrary evidence.

The A.P. reported at the time:

Prosecutors say he used an email address similar to Gablinske’s name to misrepresent the then-lawmaker’s position on tolls on the Mt. Hope Bridge.

John Leidecker claimed at the time that his activities fell into the category of free speech. This is presumably the “constitutionally protected activity” referenced in his Motion to Dismiss.

It might be more accurate, however, to place such actions into the categories of impersonation, malicious misrepresentation, harassment, and bullying. If the conviction does not stand, the resulting legal precedent could become an open invitation for others to emulate Mr. Leidecker’s activity during election years, rather than encourage more prudence and civility.

Campaign finance reports show Attorney General Peter Kilmartin has not lacked for contributions from labor unions, public and private, a fact that may cause some to erroneously pre-judge how he may act in this matter. Gablinske’s supporters hope that Kilmartin will actively oppose this Motion to Dismiss.

  • lblais

    Thanks for this, Monique.

  • Dan

    Since everything is political to the progressive-union alliance, anything is justified in pursuit of their cause.

    • Russ

      Of course, one might also say you "libertarians" defend free speech only when it's not a union doing the speaking.

      I'm not so sure I'm comfortable with public officials using stalking laws to restrict political criticism. Seems a small step to then go after the many "fake" Twitter accounts that are used to "harass" politicians, etc.

  • Dan

    Give me a break, Russ. NEARI's harassment campaigns have been reported in RI local news for years. Everyone on this blog knows the "players" and their tactics – I'm sure I don't have to go into specifics. This particular union regularly engages in intimidation campaigns that gleefully tip-toe the line of what constitutes criminal behavior. I don't know of any libertarian who believes that any form and manner of communication is protected free speech.

    • Russ

      Ah, yes. Guilt by association. Quite libertarian. I didn't suggest that all speech is protected, only that labeling political speech "stalking" is a slippery slope. Be careful what you wish for.

  • Max D

    How can you possibly defend impersonation of a public official on the internet or phone in order to influence the outcome of an election. Are you serious or are you just here to blindly argue without a point?

    • Russ

      I suppose that could be criminal in some cases. And if impersonating a public official was the offense, he should have been charged with that but that's not what occurred. Lot's of satire is intended to " influence the outcome of an election". You folks are of the opinion that should be considered criminal stalking? I don't think the law was ever intended to restrict that type of speech.

      • Max D

        "Prosecutors say he used an email address similar to Gablinske’s name to misrepresent the then-lawmaker’s position on tolls on the Mt. Hope Bridge."

        This is not protected speech but here's the rub. He's not denying he did it yet he still works for the NEA. Nice way of the NEA to endorse such behavior.

        • As I recall, he received a promotion after the conviction. The real eye-opener is that there's been no significant outrage from rank-and-file teachers who belong to that union.

    • Russ

      I was just looking through the e-mails that were reported in the media. Big stretch suggesting those exchanges were and attempt to influence the election.

  • Phil Spadola

    Maybe there’s no outrage because they recognize the larger outrage of having targets put on their backs by some of the wealthiest individuals and corporations in the nation. Your Center is only a foot soldier in the war that has been declared against public employees

  • Guest

    Russ and many progressives evidently believe the ends justify the means–as long as he supports the ends, of course. Conservatives and libertarians are fairly law-abiding–but that can change when pushed too far. Let's see if the progressives hypocritically cry foul (bets anyone?) when these groups decide their ends justify the means…

    • Russ

      I'm distressed by that comment. Someone call the AG. Guest is cyber-stalking me!

  • Dan

    Russ – It's not relevant whether Liedecker was trying to influence the election. His behavior was meant to harass and intimidate – obviously the whole point was to psychologically "get" to Gablinske. If some unknown person created a fake e-mail account with your or your child's name and started e-mailing you with it unsolicited, and posting untrue remarks about you, then you would most certainly call the police to get to the bottom of it. Don't pretend for a moment you wouldn't. You should be ashamed for defending this scary and antisocial behavior simply because it's a union official behind it.

    • Russ

      I don't exactly disagree. I'm just not sure that being juvenile and annoying is criminal stalking. Labeling this intimidation is a bit much. I'd say the post above was more an attempt to intimidate than forwarding someone a fake e-mail exchange with a farting dog.

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