MA High Court Upholds Harassment via Craigslist: Commonwealth v. Johnson
In Commonwealth v. Johnson, the Massachusetts high court upheld the criminal conviction of a husband and wife who, among other things, used fake Craigslist Ads to torment their neighbors (the Lyons family). Apparently, the defendants had a falling out with the Lyons family over a land development issue. As a result, the defendants went on a campaign to make life “miserable” for the Lyons family which included posting fake ads on Craigslist. These ads listed the phone number and address of the Lyons family and claimed that they had items for sale. As a result, the Lyons family was barraged with visits and phone calls from people looking to buy non-existent items.
At trial, the defendants argued that they could not be convicted under MA’s anti-harassment statute because the ad’s on Craigslist were not directed to the Lyons family but rather to third parties. The MA Supreme Judicial Court rejected that argument, finding that “[t]he Craigslist postings were the equivalent of the defendants recruiting others to harass the victims and the victims alone. The defendants cannot launder their harassment of the Lyons family through the Internet to escape liability.”