NEWS MEDIA UPDATE · NEW YORK · Newsgathering · May 16, 2005
New trial on harassment charges ordered for publisher
May 16, 2005 · The publisher of an upstate New York newspaper has won a new trial nearly five years after being convicted on two counts of harassment and one count of menacing.
Warren County Judge John Hall Jr. ordered June Maxam’s retrial because she was denied counsel and was not present for a hearing in the case. Maxam, who now publishes only online but previously distributed a small newspaper she printed, had been provided five different lawyers yet at the time of conviction was not represented.
The “court never obtained a competent, intelligent, and voluntary waiver of the defendant’s right to counsel, nor did it advise her of the dangers and disadvantages of self-representation,” Hall wrote. “Accordingly, it is this court’s finding that the defendant was deprived of her statutory and constitutional rights to counsel.”
“It was one of the most convoluted harassment complaints you could ever imagine in your life,” Maxam said. “The prosecutor also said that the charges never should have been brought, that they were totally legally insufficient, and . . . had I done the actions that I was charged with, they would have been constitutionally protected under the First Amendment,” she claimed.
Maxam was convicted in December 2000 of harassing her neighbors. She has long maintained that news coverage of local officials led them to retaliate against her.
The charges against Maxam, who also co-publishes the online The Empire Journal, were filed by two Chester, N.Y., residents, Jay Becker and Eleanor Lambert. Maxam has served more than six months in jail for those and related charges.
(People of the State of New York v. June Maxam) — AB