Mass. High Court To Decide: Criminal Harassment Or Just Free Speech From Bad Neighbors

Massachusetts’ highest court is set to hear arguments Wednesday in an appeal filed by a couple convicted of harassing their Andover neighbors through fake Craigslist ads for free golf carts and a false report of child abuse.

William and Gail Johnson were convicted of criminal harassment for targeting their neighbors, Jim Lyons and his wife. The trouble began after the Lyonses objected to a proposal by William Johnson to develop land behind their house.

Prosecutors said William Johnson enlisted a friend to place an ad offering free golf carts with the Lyonses’ address and phone number. The couple was also subjected to other hoaxes.

The Johnsons say Massachusetts’ criminal harassment law violated their right to free speech.

Listen to NEPR’s Carrie Healy interview Associated Press reporter Denise Lavoie in the audio player above.