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Commonwealth v. Ecker

Appeals Court of Massachusetts, Hampden

September 13, 2017

COMMONWEALTH
v.
JOHN ECKER.

          Heard: June 5, 2017.

         Indictments found and returned in the Superior Court Department on March 5, 2014.

         A pretrial motion to suppress evidence was heard by Mary-Lou Rup, J.; a motion for reconsideration was considered by C. Jeffrey Kinder, J., and the cases were tried before him.

          Deborah Bates Riordan for the defendant.

          Bethany C. Lynch, Assistant District Attorney, for the Commonwealth.

          Sullivan, Henry, & Shin, JJ.

          SHIN, J.

         A Superior Court jury convicted the defendant of stalking, two counts of criminal harassment, and attempt to commit a crime (violation of a harassment prevention order).[1] On appeal the defendant argues that (1) the motion judge should have suppressed evidence of a letter that he wrote from prison because the letter was seized in violation of his rights under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, (2) the trial judge gave an erroneous jury instruction on the definition of "malicious" conduct, as it pertains to stalking and criminal harassment, and (3) the evidence was insufficient to prove that the defendant was guilty of those offenses. We affirm.

         Background.

          The convictions at issue arose from interactions that the defendant had with two victims. We summarize the facts relating to each victim in turn, viewing the evidence and the reasonable inferences therefrom in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth. See Commonwealth v. Latimore, 378 Mass. 671, 676-677 (1979) .

         Victim 1 -- Miranda.[2]

         In May of 2013, Miranda interviewed and hired the defendant for a position at Burger King. The following day, the defendant returned to see Miranda, claiming to have questions about company policy. Miranda spoke to him for a couple of minutes.

          The defendant returned the next day looking for Miranda, but she was not working. The defendant then asked another employee for Miranda's phone number and schedule. When the employee would not give him that information, he requested that she call Miranda for him, which she declined to do. Later the same week, the defendant called Miranda at work and asked to set up a time to go over the employee manual and company policy. Although Miranda directed him to speak with the owner instead and gave him the main office number, he showed up again the next day looking for her.

         Two days later, Miranda received a letter from the defendant on her home fax machine, which was connected to her home phone line. She thereafter received the same letter by mail at her home address. The defendant began the letter by stating, "It's your CIA boyfriend and hopefully your future husband." He then stated, "The most important issue that we need to clarify is the relationship between you and I. From the first meeting on, our attraction to each other was well defined indeed. You can't hide something like that and we need to address it immediately." The defendant told Miranda that he had sent her text messages asking her to marry him and that he needed to see her "to discuss this matter and clearly define [their] relationship." He also ...


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