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Men charged with harassing New Hampshire journalists

The three men face various federal charges with harassing and intimidating radio reporters who were covering a scandal.

The three men face various federal charges with harassing and intimidating radio reporters who were covering a scandal.

A man suspected of vandalizing the home of a New Hampshire Public Radio journalist is pictured from a surveillance video. (Photo courtesy Middlesex County District Attorney's Office, handout)
A man suspected of vandalizing the home of a New Hampshire Public Radio journalist is pictured from a surveillance video. (Photo courtesy Middlesex County District Attorney’s Office, handout)

Three New Hampshire men face federal vandalism and harassment charges after they allegedly vandalized the homes of two New Hampshire public radio journalists.

The suspects — Tucker Cockerline (32), Michael Waselchuck (35) and Keenan Saniatan (36) — were arrested after federal investigators linked them to five separate acts of vandalism against the homes of WEVO (89.1 FM) reporter Lauren Chooljian and her editor, Daniel Barrick, as well as vandalism at a home where Chooljian’s parents live.

Chooljian and Barrick work for WEVO’s public radio network, New Hampshire Public Radio, and had reported on allegations of sexual misconduct by Eric Spofford, a businessman who operates Granite Recovery Centers, the state’s largest network of drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers.

Spofford sued New Hampshire Public Radio in court, alleging defamation. His case was ultimately dismissed, but a judge recently said Spofford can subpoena Chooljian’s notes, and has ordered New Hampshire Public Radio to turn them over for the judge to review. New Hampshire Public Radio is fighting the order, citing journalistic privilege.

Federal prosecutors have not accused Spofford of any wrongdoing, but charging documents released last Friday say an associate of “Subject 1” encouraged the three men to vandalize the journalists’ homes. The New York Times reported via unnamed sources that Spofford is Subject 1.

All three men reportedly carried out the vandalism spree between April and May of last year. They are facing federal charges because prosecutors say they engaged in interstate conspiracy and harassment.

“The critical role that the press plays in our society goes back to the founding of our nation,” Joshua Levy, the acting U.S. Attorney in Massachusetts, said in a statement. “Today’s charges should send a clear message that the Department of Justice will not tolerate harassment or intimidation of journalists. If you engage in this type of vicious and vindictive behavior, you will be held accountable.”

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 11 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.
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