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Monday, April 20, 2009

In the News: Multi-Stalker's Conviction Upheld in Appeals Court

(Updated 05/02/09)

An Appeals Court upheld the guilty verdict of a man convicted of stalking after defense lawyers tried to get the ruling overturned because the original jury asked the judge if stalking included the man using several friends and family members to stalk a woman in Washington state. Despite defense lawyers' arguments, the conviction was upheld.  For more detail, this Seattle Times article is reproduced below:

Friday, May 2, 2008 - Page updated at 08:15 AM

Washington high court: Stalking by third parties is a crime
Associated Press Writer

A man who recruited his friends to follow an ex-girlfriend and file written reports about her activities was correctly convicted of stalking, the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

In a 6-3 decision, the high court reinstated the conviction of Andre Paul Becklin, who was convicted in Ferry County Superior Court of using several friends to follow his ex-girlfriend, Mary Alison McGee. Becklin was sentenced to a year in prison, but his conviction was overturned by the state Court of Appeals.

The Supreme Court's majority, led by Justice Bobbe Bridge, said Thursday that the definition of stalking "is broad enough to encompass the act of directing third parties to follow and intimidate a victim."

Bridge was joined by Justices Susan Owens, Mary Fairhurst, Barbara Madsen, James Johnson and Tom Chambers.

Mike Sandona, the Ferry County prosecutor, said the court's ruling was important.

"It stops people like Mr. Becklin, who has friends do the things he can't do, disturb the peace of his ex," he said. "It's is an issue of fear and control over another person."

Becklin and McGee started dating in 1996, but according to court records, Becklin made threats to kill her and attacked her when she refused to get an abortion after becoming pregnant with their son.

McGee eventually left Becklin and married another man, before which Becklin briefly took their son without McGee's consent and tried to force his way into her home, according to court documents.

McGee got a protection order in December 2003, barring Becklin from having any contact with her or from coming within 100 feet of her or her home. The order also prohibited contact through third parties.

Becklin was arrested on April 1, 2004 and charged with stalking McGee after she said Becklin's friends repeatedly drove Becklin's cars by her house, circling her block several times. Friends would also fill out written reports for Becklin recounting their sightings of McGee around town.

Dissenters, led by Chief Justice Gerry Alexander, took issue with what they said were inadequate jury instructions that ultimately led to Becklin's conviction.

During closing arguments, both sides addressed the issue of whether Becklin should be held accountable for the actions of his friends, but instructions to the jury did not include any guidance on accomplice liability or the concept that a third party's actions could support criminal accountability for stalking.

After it began deliberations, the jury sent a note to the judge, asking if a third party was included in stalking and whether a person could be stalked through a third party.

The judge answered yes, and the jury convicted Becklin.

"Although one may be culpable for the acts of others through Washington's complicity statute if he or she causes an innocent person or persons to engage in criminal conduct or is an accomplice of the person committing the unlawful acts, the jury should receive an instruction" based on the state statutes, Alexander wrote, joined by Justices Charles Johnson and Richard Sanders.

Becklin's attorney, Anthony Castelda, could not be reached for comment.
The case is State v. Becklin, docket number 79354-9.
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A Word to the Wise T.I. thanks Felix C. for tracking down the Seattle Times article.