By Katie Mulvaney
Journal Staff Writer
PROVIDENCE — A state teachers union executive charged with stalking a former state lawmaker by e-mail is challenging the admissibility of evidence seized from his home as well as any statements he made to investigators.
John A. Leidecker, an assistant executive director with the National Education Association of Rhode Island, argues evidence taken from his home or car are the fruit of an unlawful arrest that violated his rights to due process and to be free of unreasonable searches.
Bristol police charged Leidecker, 54, of 154 Friendly St., Cranston, in December with knowingly transmitting false information about former Democratic state Rep. Douglas W. Gablinske over the Internet. Authorities said he impersonated Gablinske, a union foe who called for pension reform, in e-mails that misstated his political positions.
Bristol police last month changed the charge to a misdemeanor count of cyberstalking. Under the law, it is alleged Leidecker willfully seriously alarmed or bothered Gablinske for no legitimate purpose. The law states that his conduct must “be of a kind that would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress, or be in fear of bodily injury.”
Bristol police dropped the false information charge. They referred questions to solicitor Jeanne M. Scott, who did not return two phone calls placed to her office this week.
Leidecker has pleaded not guilty to cyberstalking and was ordered not to contact Gablinske. His motion to suppress evidence is set to be heard April 27 in District Court.
State and Bristol police executed search warrants on Leidecker’s home and Cranston office Nov. 30. An affidavit for the warrant signed by Judge Elaine T. Bucci said Gablinske told Bristol police Sept. 24 that someone had posed as him in e-mails. The first e-mail, sent on Sept. 10, four days before he was defeated in the Democratic primary, appeared to be from a supposed constituent asking about his position on toll legislation.
On Sept. 14, Gablinske received an e-mail titled “Confusion?” followed by the message “Hee, hee, hee! Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy!” that came from the address email@example.com.
A day later the constituent contacted him about his response that he supported a $5-per-axle toll. Gablinske told the police he had never sent a response nor had he supported a toll. On Sept. 20, the constituent questioned Gablinske’s conflicting responses. He forwarded a message from douggablinski that read “Dear Walter, I realize that increasing the tolls on the Mount Hope Bridge may have a negative impact on you, but I am a STATE representative, Do you understand? STATE representative, not just the representative of the Mount Hope Bridge. I was elected to think about the bridges in Central Falls, too. Besides, you shouldn’t be using the bridge more than twice a day. You’r wasting bridge.” Gablinske tried to e-mail the constituent about the false information. Authorities said they traced the computer addresses used to Leidecker’s home and office.
Leidecker argues any statements he made violated his privilege against self-incrimination. Any consent Leidecker gave, Mann wrote, was not voluntary. The affidavits supporting the search warrant, he said, do not even reference cyberstalking.
John Leidecker, a lawyer with NEARI, denied portrayals in the media that he contacted the two-term Democrat’s constituents.
“What’s been alleged out there … is just so grossly wrong,” Leidecker said, adding, “He was blaming me for the loss; the bottom line is I did not have contact with his constituents…. Maybe he didn’t do a good job representing his district.”
Gablinske, who ran an unsuccessful write-in campaign after the primary loss, stood by his characterization of the case as political “thuggery” by the state teachers union. “I have no idea how widespread the distribution of those e-mails were,” said Gablinske, a real estate appraiser. “The NEA was certainly in my race lock, stock and barrel,” he said. “They were committed to taking me out.”
He said he might consider a run in 2012 or 2014.