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Appeals court reinstates charges against man accused of stalking ex-wife

A court gavel
A court gavel

WAUKESHA, WI (WTAQ) - Stalking is not free expression under the U.S. Constitution.

That’s what a state appeals court said, when it reinstated a felony charge against a 52-year-old Milwaukee man.

Waukesha County Circuit Judge James Kieffer had ruled that Wisconsin’s law against stalking was overly broad. And he dropped a 2009 charge against Gary Hemmingway, on the grounds that it violated the constitutional protection of free speech under the First Amendment.

But the Second District Appellate Court in Waukesha disagreed. It said, “The First Amendment does not protect intentional conduct designed to cause serious emotional distress, or fear of bodily harm or death in a targeted victim.”

Hemmingway is once again facing accusations that he sent numerous threatening e-mails, text messages, and phone calls to his ex-wife. Among other things, they quoted Hemmingway as saying he would “blow her brains out” – and the only way she could feel his pain is if both her sons died at the same time.

The appeals court said the speech itself is not against the law – but is against the law is, “the intentional course of conduct to inflict harm.”