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Activist’s stalking charge dismissed

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CANTON — A Canton town judge has dismissed stalking charges against Colton environmental activist and former congressional candidate Donald L. Hassig, who was accused of harassing St. Lawrence County Public Health Director Susan J. Hathaway.

Mr. Hassig disagrees with Ms. Hathaway’s approach to educating the public with respect to chemicals he believes are carcinogens. Justice Cathleen E. O’Horo concluded Tuesday that the state’s stalking law “was never meant as a provision whereby governmental officials could hope to silence those with whom they did not agree.”

Trespassing charges will proceed, however.

Ms. Hathaway declined comment Thursday, but she said she was aware of the ruling.

Mr. Hassig hailed the decision in an email.

“Honor to Judge Cathleen O’Horo for valuing the right of American citizens to petition government for much needed action,” Mr. Hassig wrote.

Mr. Hassig was arrested on Nov. 7 by St. Lawrence County sheriff’s deputies, who said that he had harassed Ms. Hathaway continuously since 2010. It was from that arrest that the fourth-degree stalking charge considered by Ms. O’Horo arose.

On Oct. 30, Mr. Hassig was arrested by state police during a demonstration at the St. Lawrence County Human Services Building, 80 Route 310, at which he was accused of playing loud music and aggressively approaching people as they walked through the lobby. He was charged with trespassing in that case.

Mr. Hassig also petitioned the court to have that charged dismissed. Ms. O’Horo ruled that the charge will stand, and will be scheduled for a non-jury trial.

He also was charged with trespassing on Oct. 24 during a similar demonstration at Massena Memorial Hospital, at which time Mr. Hassig said it was the fifth time he had been charged over the course of a year for public protest, including arrests in Potsdam, Watertown and Parishville.

Ms. O’Horo ruled that Mr. Hassig’s actions, though persistent and clearly intended to cause Ms. Hathaway to change her behavior, did not meet the legal definition of stalking.

“Whether one agrees with Mr. Hassig’s position or not, the fact remains that he is entitled to his position and is entitled to present his views so long as he does not upset the public order,” the judge wrote.

St. Lawrence County Administrator Karen M. St. Hilaire declined comment on the ruling, but she said, “We would hope that Mr. Hassig, as with any member of the public who visits the courthouse or our offices, would conduct himself in a manner that is non-confrontational, or that would not seem to be something out of the ordinary.”

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