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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
With states across the country finding that benefits for public workers are becoming nearly impossible to fund in the current economic climate, support for public employee unions has fallen.
A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 45% of Americans now at least somewhat favor unions for public employees, while the identical number 45% are opposed to them. These findings include 21% who Strongly Favor such unions versus 30% who are Strongly Opposed to them. To see survey question wording, click here.In May of last year, 53% of Adults favored unions for public employees, while 37% opposed them.By comparison, 51% now at least somewhat favor unions for private sector workers, with just 39% opposed.
CHICAGO – “You should kill yourself.”
It’s a message that Vernon Hills, Ill., police officer Jim Koch said he sees “all the time” on the one of the newest social networking sites that allows users to post messages anonymously.
Others include “why r u so ugly? i cant find one attractive thing about u,” “GO THE HELL AWAY! NO ONE LIKES U” and “whats wrong with ur teeth theyre nasty.”
Barely a year old, Formspring.me is quickly turning into a sensation, in part because of teenagers who are attracted by the option of leaving their names off their comments.
Formspring boasts nearly 20 million users around the world, according to a company spokeswoman. The idea of the site is to have a conversation by answering questions stemming from the prompt “Ask me anything.” So far, more than 1.5 billion questions have been answered.
“It’s like a bathroom wall,” said Koch, the school resource officer at Vernon Hills High School. “You write whatever you want.”
As a result, nearly every day he is calling students in to talk, is on the phone with parents or is in the hallways hanging up news stories of teens who committed suicide after being on the receiving end of nasty online remarks.
As damaging as some of the remarks can be for teens, they can’t seem to pull themselves away, Koch said. “As horrible as it is, as much as we can tell them to stay off the site, they develop an obsession with knowing what people think,” he said.
Formspring spokeswoman Sarahjane Sacchetti touts the site’s many benefits and says Formspring doesn’t want to see the product misused.
NEARI worker accused of impersonating state rep
Updated: Wednesday, 01 Dec 2010, 6:12 PM EST
Published : Wednesday, 01 Dec 2010, 6:11 PM EST
WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) – Court documents obtained by the Target 12 Investigators shed new light on the arrest of an official for the National Education Association of Rhode Island.
NEARI assistant executive director John Leidecker pleaded not guilty Tuesday to a misdemeanor charge of creating a fake email account to impersonate outgoing State Representative Doug Gablinske.
He was arrested after Bristol and Rhode Island State Police raided both his home and office.
Search warrants obtained Wednesday by Target 12 reveal the contents of the some of the emails Leidecker is accused of writing while police say he was posing as Rep. Gablinske.
One email references Gablinske’s opposition to tolls on the Mount Hope Bridge:
I realize that increasing the tolls on the Mount Hope Bridge may have a negative impact on you, but I’m 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 of Central Falls, too.”
Another, sent days after Gablinske lost in the September primary, makes reference to leaf bags the representative gave out during the campaign season, according to police:
“Walter, Do you want to buy some trash bags? I’ve got $9,000 worth in my garage. Dougie.”
Court documents also show that police contacted Google to figure out who was sending the phony emails. Gmail says the subscriber created the account using John Leidecker’s union email address as a back-up.
The account in question was created on September 10th, four days prior to Gablinske’s primary loss at the polls.
It is still unclear how many emails were sent from the phony email account.
The search warrant also shows that police removed 23 computer items from Leidecker’s home and NEARI headquarters, both in Cranston.
The equipment is being analyzed by Rhode Island State Police.
So HYPOTHETICALLY if I were to set up an email account pretending to be Bob Walsh or Leidecker it would be a poor prank, right? So if I sent an emailing pretending to be either of you saying, “I realize that the 26th ranked public education system we have in Rhode Island may have an impact on you, your children, and our future, but I’m an executive at the TEACHER’S union. Do you understand? TEACHER’S union, not just the representative of local children,” it would just be a practical joke?
Ok. Just as long as Bob Walsh and I have an understanding as to what is despicable political tampering and what is a prank.
IF ONLY this were a historically conservative group carrying out the misdeeds that are alleged of NEARI, man! Heads would roll and the Providence Journal and “RI Future” would be the Ronaldos driving those heads down the field.
Police sift records for more leads in impersonation case
BRISTOL — As police comb through computer records in preparation for their case against an assistant executive director of the state’s teachers’ union accused of impersonating a state representative in e-mails, they’re keeping an eye peeled for anyone else who might have been involved.
Although the Bristol Police Department and the State Police Computers Crime Unit brought a misdemeanor charge against John Leidecker, 54, of Cranston for use of false information on Tuesday, Nov. 30, the case is still under investigation, according to Bristol Police Lt. Steven Contente. More charges could be coming for Mr. Leidecker, and if involvement from any others turns up as police delve into records on computers seized from Mr. Leidecker’s residence in Cranston and from the National Educators Association-Rhode Island’s (NEARI) headquarters in Cranston, they will be charged as well.
Mr. Leidecker allegedly opened a Google e-mail account and posed in e-mails as state Rep. Doug Gablinske (D-Bristol, Warren), misrepresenting his stance on local issues prior to the September primary election, which Mr. Gablinske lost to his Democratic opponent. (Read the full story on the NEARI staffer arrest here, along with the e-mails turned into police.)
Lt. Contente said “it’s unforeseen right now” whether any further charges will be brought against Mr. Leidecker, who received a law degree from Roger Williams University in 1997 and who is involved in negotiations of the Bristol-Warren teachers’ contract, which expires next August.
“We are at the forensics stage of the case right now,” Lt. Contente said. The State Police is providing technical expertise and use of the computer crimes lab to Bristol police to investigate the seized records.
Since the faked e-mail account was accessed by a computer at the NEARI office, police seized those records and will be looking for involvement in the crime by others.
“There are individuals we are going to be looking for” in the records, Lt. Contente said. “We’re not going to take a blind eye if he didn’t do this alone. If he sent these e-mails with somebody else, we’re keeping our options open … The option is still open to apply for additional search warrants to seize (more) records.”
Mr. Leidecker pleaded not guilty of the charge on Nov. 30 at Kent County Superior Court. A pre-trial is set for Jan. 10.
Hate letters, too
During the same period that an impersonator was putting out false information on Mr. Gablinske’s political talking points, anonymous hate letters were sent to Mr. Gablinske and a vocal campaign supporter.
The letters were threatening in nature. One was even sent to Mrs. Gablinske. Mr. Gablinske and his campaign supporter continued receiving the threatening letters — one of those sent to the campaign supporter included a photo of his residence — after the election.
Both of them filed reports with the police. While the case is still under investigation, Lt. Contente said he would not comment on whether these are linked to the impersonator’s case.
Last Friday, another Bristol man filed a report that he had received anonymous letters. Lt. Contente said police have not yet concluded if they are of the same type sent to the others.
After the arrest of Mr. Leidecker, the Rhode Island Statewide Coalition (RISC) called for the removal of NEARI Executive Director Bob Walsh from Governor-elect Linc Chafee’s transition team. RISC endorsed Mr. Gablinske’s re-election, and the campaign supporter of Mr. Gablinske’s who received the hate mail is a member of RISC.
“NEARI Executive Director Robert Walsh should be immediately asked to step down from the Transition Team of incoming Governor Chafee in light of the State Police arrest and investigation of a top NEARI official this week,” RISC wrote in a press release. “Governor-elect Chafee consistently cited public corruption in Rhode Island as a primary problem for moving the state forward during his campaign. The nature of this week’s arrest, involving alleged illegal campaign activity by the statewide teaches’ union, warrants the incoming governor immediately remove NEARI leadership from the transition team until the full scope of the statewide teachers’ union involvement in the alleged activities is learned.”
A call to the governor-elect’s transition office was returned on Thursday. Governor-elect Chafee issued this statement: “Robert A. Walsh, Jr. is a valued member of my Transition Advisory Committee. He represents an important perspective on critical issues that the State of Rhode Island is currently confronting. My transition team includes a wide range of members with experience in labor, business, education, social services and government. I value each individual’s contribution. I look forward to continuing to work with Mr. Walsh when he returns from medical leave.”
School administration asked for action on local teachers’ union
As police investigate a top official in the state teachers’ union, Doug Gablinske wants to know what the Bristol-Warren school district has done about local teachers’ union practices he questioned in September.
In the lead-up to the September primary, Rep. Gablinske took issue with what he says were two alleged improprieties by the local teachers’ union, the Bristol Warren Educators Association (BWEA).
In one of those, Mr. Gablinske claims that during a day-long teachers’ orientation on Aug. 30 at Mt. Hope High School, National Educators Association-Rhode Island (NEARI) employee and lobbyist Pat Crowley was allowed to stump for his opponent, Richard Morrison, in front of the teachers.
Superintendent Melinda Thies said in an interview this week that the teachers’ contract allows one hour during orientation to “discuss contract and union issues.” But she acknowledged that the language in the contract is “very broad.” She says she is not told beforehand what will be discussed during that hour, and does not know what was said on Aug. 30.
In fact, all the contract says is that a BWEA representative must be given an hour of time during orientation. The section references orientation day as a time to orient members to the school system and the teachers’ contract.
Mr. Gablinske says his reading of the same section spells out specifically what may be done during orientation — and it’s not political stumping on the taxpayers’ dime.
“I am disappointed that the school administration and school committee have done virtually nothing to investigate this allegation and have basically determined that it is perfectly OK for the BWEA to be paid by the taxpayers,” Mr. Gablinske said. “Pat Crowley of the NEARI was at that meeting talking politics, and the administration and the school committee should be questioning some of the hundreds of teachers that were at the meeting about if he was there, who he was with and what he talked about.”
Ms. Thies said Mr. Gablinske never filed a formal complaint. Until then, the school department will not investigate. However, while the teachers’ contract is under negotiation this year, she said the language about what goes on during orientation day will be looked at. “The language in the contract is open-ended, and we perhaps should refine that.”
Mr. Gablinske also claimed the BWEA president’s use of the district’s official e-mail system to send e-mails to fellow teachers asking for their support in a get-out-the-vote drive before the primary in support of Mr. Gablinske’s challenger was an illegal use of school resources.
Ms. Thies agreed. “It was inappropriate, and we have addressed that internally.” She said it will not be allowed to happen again.
I thought for the “future” of “Rhode Island” we were looking for “progress.” Sure seems to be that oppressive political scheming while throwing out cutesy liberal catch phrases rules the day. The problem with some local “progressives” in this state is that they are subscribers to disingenuous political ploys and lopsided anger. It is often played out in a manner in which the Right, conservatives, are made out to be these brutish and intimidating figures holding down the little guy. It is all too convenient to demonize the conservative boogieman or practically anyone who has an ideological objection to the progressive platform. Often, some “progressives” regress to one of the most innate human emotions, anger, and use that vitriol to launch an internet, telephonic, and written illogical assaults on ideologically opposed persons and groups. Is this really “progress?” Is the sort of “progress” we want for “Rhode Island’s Future?”
I would hope, truly for the sake of Rhode Island’s future, that logic and shared interests will finally prevail. Union, nonunion, liberal, conservative; the fact of the matter is the truth of ‘we are all in this together’ rings even more resoundingly in the tiny state of Rhode Island. For Rhode Island to truly progress, as all desire, we need to work together, not stem opposition, to formulate tangible changes for a state that yearns for genuine productive answers.