Court: Union Boss’ Fake Emails Impersonating Lawmaker Protected by 1st Amendment
The Rhode Island Superior Court yesterday overturned a misdemeanor conviction for John A. Leidecker, a top teachers union official who mocked and impersonated a state lawmaker during the 2010 primary.
Leidecker, an assistant executive director of the National Education Association of Rhode Island, was busted in 2010 for sending emails mocking former state Rep. Douglas W. Gablinske on a number of political issues.
The messages were sent from an email account of Doug Gablinski, and detailed exchanges between the imposter and a fictional person, Walter Flatus, in which the union official misrepresented the lawmaker’s position on bridge tolls, school funding and union contract issues. Gablinske contends Leidecker’s musings, which he forwarded to the lawmaker, caused him to lose the primary, as well as many restless nights, the Providence Journal reports.
Leidecker was found guilty of cyberstalking by District Court Judge Stephen M. Isherwood in 2011 and ordered to pay a $100 fine for the misdemeanor conviction, but the union boss appealed the decision to the state’s Superior Court.
This week, Judge Susan E. McGuirl ruled the mocking and harassing emails were protected political speech under the First Amendment, and overturned the lower court’s ruling, the news site reports.
“The language in the emails, while annoying, did not rise to the level of threatening, she said. She also could not find that it was without any legitimate purpose as it addressed issues up for political debate at the time, she said,” according to the Journal.
Gablinske, of course, didn’t take the ruling lightly.