The Massachusetts Appeals Court today agreed with a Lynn-area woman that her former boyfriend has to be ordered to leave her alone, but overturned a lower-court decision ordering him to surrender his guns, after hearing about a 15-month harassment campaign that included showing up at her workplace, her yoga studio and a Starbucks to threaten her.
The difference, the court ruled, is that the harassment started only after the two had broken up. Because of that, the woman had to file for a keep-away order under the state's "civil harassment" law, which does not allow a judge to order somebody to give up his guns. Were they still going out, she could have sought a keep-away order under the state's domestic-violence law, which specifically gives judges the right to make a person hand in firearms to police.
The court said the legislature very deliberately excluded guns from the civil-harassment law - a section that would have allowed that was deleted from the bill that eventually became the law, the court said.
We do not consider the language of [the civil harassment law], to be so broad as to encompass a remedy that the Legislature expressly rejected.
The court added the woman could seek other civil or criminal remedies - and said there's nothing from stopping authorities in the community that issued the man his gun permits to revoke them for cause.
In its ruling, which uses only acronyms to refer to the woman and her ex, the court did agree the man kept menacing the woman and that the lower-court judge was right to order him to stay away, especially after 15 months of requests from both the woman and her local police department had failed to deter him.
In a second text message sent in July, 2013, the defendant texted the plaintiff, "You don't get it. You have much more to lose in this than I do. If you're so stupid to tell anyone in AA about us, you'll be fucked." He then texted, "If you tell [your boy friend] about us, I'll send him naked pictures of you that'll prove you're a slut. I'm keeping the pictures for blackmail purposes." The defendant then sent numerous text messages to the plaintiff's boy friend. A third text message the defendant sent to the plaintiff during the month of July, 2013, stated, "And, if you tell [your boy friend] about the affair, I'll tell him how crazy and fucked up you are. I will ruin you. Don't cross me. This will end badly for you. You will pay the consequences."
The court gave other examples:
In addition to following the plaintiff to the yoga studio, the defendant also appeared at a Starbucks in December of 2013, where the plaintiff was seated with a friend. "He was very red in the face and made extremely intimidating facial expressions towards [her]." The plaintiff immediately left the Starbucks. The defendant continued to text the plaintiff after this incident, telling her that she should apologize for going to the police.