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Appeals court nixes North Ridgeville man’s telecommunications harassment conviction over angry voicemail to city employees—Elyria Chronicle Telegram

The 9th District Court of Appeals in Akron has overturned a North Ridgeville man’s criminal telecommunications harassment conviction, saying he had no intent to “purposefully abuse, intimidate or harass” city employees when he called them to get his water service turned back on three years ago. . . .

“This was a shockingly unconstitutional prosecution and conviction and we’re grateful it’s been reversed,” attorneys Peter Pattakos and Gregory Gipson of the Pattakos Law Firm in Fairlawn wrote in a statement on behalf of their client. It was the only conviction of its kind [under Ohio’s telecommunications harassment statute, R.C. 2917.21] they said they could find in their research.

Pattakos said Thursday that “there will be legal accountability” for North Ridgeville. [Pattakos’s client] “does intend to and will be seeking compensation and accountability for this unconstitutional prosecution,” he said in a phone interview. …

The city’s “malicious prosecution … would have been completely unnecessary had North Ridgeville’s prosecutor simply respected the Constitution and declined to issue these outrageous charges in the first place,” Pattakos [said]. . . .

Numerous legal scholars supported [the] appeal. Ohio’s law could not be constitutionally applied to [the] speech in the case, a group of them argued in a brief written by attorney Jeffrey Nye of the law firm of Stagnaro, Saba & Patterson in Cincinnati. And while some speech directed at the government may be properly punishable,”merely offensive speech” may not, he wrote.

“[The defendant] did not threaten violence, engage in face-to-face ‘fighting words,’ or incite others to cause harm,” Nye wrote. . . .

“Americans are entitled to call their government offices to express their grievances, especially when there is a plausible case that their and their families’ safety are in danger … That includes the right to express themselves using offensive words … [This case involved] no more than that … .”

To view a PDF of the entire Chronicle Telegram report see here.

For more information about this case see here.