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 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.