3 Charged With New Hampshire Public Radio Attacks

Federal prosecutors in Boston announced Friday criminal charges against three men accused of vandalizing journalists’ homes in New Hampshire and Massachusetts in retaliation for an investigation into a local businessman.

The accusations stem from a series of incidents after New Hampshire Public Radio broadcast last spring. expose allegations of sexual misconduct To Eric Spofford, who until recently owned the state’s largest network of drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers. Spofford later sued the media outlet for defamation.

Spofford’s name is not listed in the criminal complaint. But a person familiar with the investigation said Mr. Spofford was repeatedly named by prosecutors as “Subject 1.” The complaint states that Subject 1’s “close personal associates” “encouraged” the three men to raid the houses.

Lauren Chorzian, a senior radio station reporter, had her windows smashed and her house painted with graffiti. Her editor Daniel Barrick was targeted. Chorzian’s parents’ house was destroyed twice in a month.

The attack was an unusually violent attack on a small news organization. Combined with Spofford’s legal threats against journalists and their sources, the incident marks a widespread pattern of politicians and the wealthy taking increasingly drastic measures to punish journalists for negative reporting. seemed to be part

last year, US Press Freedom Tracker We have identified 41 journalists who have been physically assaulted. In one case, a Nevada politician was charged with killing a reporter who was investigating him.

“Today’s charges should send a clear message that the Justice Department will not tolerate harassment or intimidation of journalists,” said Deputy U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Joshua S. Levy. in the statement on friday. “If you engage in this kind of vicious and revengeful behavior, you will be held accountable.”

Prosecutors at the U.S. Attorney’s Office have charged Tucker Cockerline, Keenan Sanithan, and Michael Waserchuk with conspiracy to interstate stalk. Cockerline and Wazelchuk were arrested Friday morning. Sanithan is still at large, prosecutors said. This offense is punishable by up to five years in prison.

The person identified in the complaint as “Subject 2” and accused of inciting the attack lived in New Hampshire and was in frequent phone contact with Subject 1, prosecutors said.

Spofford and his attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday. The complaint does not say whether Spofford was aware of the vandalism.

Spofford denied the allegations of sexual misconduct and said he had nothing to do with the vandalism that occurred in April and May 2022. In a statement last year, Spofford said he had many supporters, speculating “probably.” One of them felt compelled to do this in a misguided attempt to protect me. ”

After publication in New Hampshire Public Radio the investigation Last spring, Mr. Spofford repeatedly threatened the media and some of its sources to sue Mr. Spofford. Mr. Chorzian and his parents’ home were destroyed less than two days after NHPR rejected Mr. Spofford’s request to retract the article.

Spofford sued NHPR and others in September. A state judge dismissed the lawsuit, but Spofford said he could file an amended lawsuit, which he said he intends to do.

According to the criminal complaint, the FBI obtained phone calls and other records showing the suspected men were working with Subject 2 before and after each attack. Their cellphone location data matched the time and place of the vandalism.

The man who stormed Chorgian’s home in Melrose, Massachusetts, threw bricks through the window and spray-painted “Start!” He was photographed by a doorbell camera wearing a red suit, wearing a blue raincoat and carrying a backpack.

The complaint included an image of Mr. Wazerczyk a month earlier wearing the same raincoat and what appeared to be a backpack. Vaserczak’s mobile phone records also show that he was near Cholzian’s house at the time of the attack.

Lawyers for Cockerline and Waserchuk declined to comment. Sanithan was not immediately reachable on Friday.

“We believe the justice system will hold perpetrators accountable,” said Jim Schacter, chief executive of New Hampshire Public Radio. “Journalists whose job is to report frankly for the public good need not worry about threats of violence or attacks on their homes or families.”

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office said the investigation was ongoing.

Kirsten Noise Contributed to research.

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