Obscenity-laden letters protected by First Amendment

Anonymous letters mailed to Michael Costello and wife, included the words "thug," ''scumbag," ''loser"

BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts’ highest court has ruled that a series of obscenity-laden letters written to a Rehoboth selectman are protected political speech and don’t rise to the level of criminal harassment.

The anonymous letters mailed to Michael Costello and his wife Susan included the words “thug,” ”scumbag,” ”loser” and other, unprintable names.

Harvey Bigelow was convicted in 2013 of criminal harassment for sending the five letters which also accused Costello of having an extramarital affair and abusing drugs and alcohol.

On Tuesday the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court found the letters were protected by the First Amendment.

The court reversed Bigelow’s conviction of criminal harassment against Michael Costello, but ordered a new trial on the charges as they relate to Susan Costello, who is not an elected official.

The court said a jury could reasonably conclude the language directed at Susan Costello in three of the letters amounted to true threats.


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