A Massachusetts woman has been charged with two counts of felony stalking of the former general manager of the Boston Red Sox, now president of the Chicago Cubs.
Media reports indicate the Canton woman was arrested a few blocks from Theo Epstein’s home, where she told police she was seeking him out to invite him to church. In and of itself that wouldn’t be a crime, but the woman had reportedly been warned about stalking his home.
Massachusetts criminal defense lawyers know that despite the headlines often made in cases of celebrity or high-profile stalking incidents, which often involve an element of mental illness, the majority of stalking allegations stem from a break-up or divorce.
In many cases, it can be a misunderstanding or one person just has a hard time letting go.
And the fact of the matter is, it’s fairly common. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports the following:
1. In the U.S., 14 out of every 1,000 people reported being victims of stalking;
2. For people who were divorced or separated, the rate of stalking was the highest – 34 out of every 1,000;
3. About 1 in 4 alleged stalking victims reported being the target of some form of cyberstalking, such as e-mail (more than 80 percent) or instant messaging (35 percent);
The penalties for a stalking conviction under Massachusetts law are serious.
Massachusetts law, specifically Part IV, Title I, Chapter 265, Section 43, addresses stalking and its punishments. This statute defines stalking as any willful and malicious engagement in a pattern of conduct or series of acts over a period of time that is directed at one person that either “seriously alarms” or “annoys” that person AND would cause a reasonable person to suffer emotional distress. The law also similarly encompasses threats that are intended to make the person fear either imminent physical injury or death.
This is a felony, and if convicted, a person can serve up to five years in prison and pay up to a $1,000 fine.
A lot of times when we think of stalking, collectively we’re picturing someone physically following another person around with binoculars. But of course, that’s an antiquated notion (although it would still count) and the law now addresses various forms of electronic communication too.
For example, the conduct that would be considered stalking under the law includes any actions carried out or threats made by mail, phone, e-mail, faxes, instant messages or any other electronic or digital communication.
So for example, if your girlfriend breaks up with you and you send her a series of Facebook messages meant to intimidate her or threaten her – even after you’ve been warned to stop – you can be charged with stalking, even if you never go near her.
It’s this misunderstanding about stalking laws that can sometimes get people in trouble.