ANDOVER — A husband and wife who are neighbors of state Rep. James Lyons Jr. have been sentenced to jail for malicious harassment of Lyons and his family over two months in 2008 including making false accusations of child molestation.
William and Gail Johnson, both 53, of 36 High Vale Lane, targeted Lyons and his family, of 12 High Vale Lane, for their opposition to the Johnsons' plans to build a 4,500-square-foot home off Andover Street in Ballardvale, abutting the Lyons' property.
The Johnsons were each sentenced Thursday in Lawrence District Court.
The charges against the Johnsons included:
Using Lyons' name, address, phone numbers and other personal information, including Social Security numbers in phony listings on the website Craigslist.org looking to sell golf carts and a motorcycle.
Giving a false report to the state Department of Children and Families implicating Lyons and his teenage son in incidents of "inappropriate touching" and physical abuse.
Attempting to open up bank accounts using Lyons' personal information.
Sending misleading letters to Lyons, with one thanking him for donating his body to medical science.
"In my wildest dreams, I never thought that people could do something like this to other people," Lyons said yesterday.
A jury convicted William Johnson of criminal harassment and filing a false report with the Department of Children and Families, for which he was sentenced to 18 months and ordered to pay a $1,000 fine for filing the false report. Gail Johnson was also convicted of criminal harassment and sentenced to a six-month jail term.
Both of them were found not guilty of identity fraud, and Gail Johnson was found not guilty of filing a false report.
Both were also sentenced to three years of probation and are prohibited from having contact with Lyons.
"Our family is relieved and grateful," said Lyons, who elected to the Legislature in 2010. "We are relieved by our hope of an end to the criminal harassment which we have endured for years. We are grateful to Sgt. Chad Cooper and the Andover Police Department, Amanda Thomas of the Essex County District Attorney's office, and we're especially grateful to Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Kunsch, for her diligent efforts in the prosecution of this case."
The trial started Monday, with the Johnsons' longtime friend Gerald Colton, of Lowell, testifying against them. Colton also faces charges of identity fraud and stalking in the case. Jurors spent three hours deliberating on Thursday before delivering their verdict.
Given a chance to make a statement before sentencing, Lyons' wife Bernadette asked Judge Michael Uhlarik to show some compassion for the Johnsons.
"Even though these people put us through torture and they have showed no remorse and they didn't think about our kids, I am going to think about theirs," Bernadette Lyons said. "Those girls need their mom."
The two lawyers for the Johnsons — Ronald Ranta for William and Susan McNeil for Gail — did not return requests for comment.
Lyons first contacted police about the harassment in March 2008 and Andover police confiscated three computers from the Colton's apartment the following month.
"The stress has been at sometimes absolutely incredible," Rep. Lyons said. "When you know that this is being done to you by people you have to see every day because they live on your street, that can be quite stressful."
Lyons emphasized that his family is relieved. He announced earlier this year that he is seeking re-election to his 18th Essex seat. "We're just going to move on with our lives," Lyons said.
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