Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

State v. Hayes

Court of Common Pleas of Delaware

July 25, 2017

STATE OF DELAWARE,
v.
JUSTIN HAYES, Defendant

          Jillian Schroder, Esquire Deputy Attorney Genera Deputy Attorney For The State of Delaware

          Benjamin Gifford, Esquire Law Office of Benjamin S. Gifford Attorney for Defendant

          LETTER OPINION AND DECISION AFTER TRIAL

          Robert H. Surles Judge

         1. The defendant, Justin Hayes (hereinafter the "Defendant"), stands charged with Harassment and Violation of a Protective Order. A non-jury trial was convened on June 12, 2017, at the conclusion of which the Court reserved decision. This is the Court's decision after trial.

         2. At trial, the Court heard testimony from Kathleen Eldridge ("Dr. Eldridge"), John Donnelly ("Dr. Donnelly"), Colleen Durkin ("Ms. Durkin"), and Corporal Thomas Lukach of Delaware State Police Troop 6 ("Corporal Lukach"). The Court also received documentary evidence and the Defendant's prior recorded statement. The Court, in its sole duty as the trier of fact, [1] finds the relevant facts as follows.[2]

         3. The Defendant and Dr. Eldridge had previously engaged in a romantic relationship. During the course of that relationship, Dr. Eldridge sent the Defendant a picture of herself topless. After the relationship ended, the Defendant became angry and, in December of 2016, posted a scathing review of Dr. Eldridge on the Christiana Care Internal Medicine Residency Facebook group (the "Christiana Facebook group").[3] Dr. Eldridge sought and obtained an Order of Protection From Abuse (the "PFA"), which was granted on January 6, 2017. The PFA included, inter alia, a clause prohibiting the Defendant from contacting Dr. Eldridge and from mentioning Dr. Eldridge on all social media.

         4. On February 7, 2017, the Defendant sent a message to the Christiana Facebook group containing the topless picture of Dr. Eldridge.[4] The message was seen by Dr. Donnelly, who contacted Dr. Eldridge about the photograph after recognizing the Defendant's name and profile picture from the prior post on the Christiana Facebook group. Dr. Eldridge confirmed the photograph was the picture she had previously sent to the Defendant and that she had not sent that photograph to any other person.[5]

         5. In the Defendant's recorded interview, the Defendant admitted to posting the first scathing review of Dr. Eldridge on the Christiana Facebook group. The Defendant claimed he was very upset, as he had recently been fired and was then dumped by Dr. Eldridge. He went into a deep depression, started drinking, and eventually attempted to commit suicide. The Defendant initially did not recall receiving the naked photograph from Dr. Eldridge; the Defendant was significantly evasive and forgetful on this topic.

         6. Later in the interview, the Defendant admitted to receiving the photograph, but could not recall any unique identifying marks. The Defendant did not remember if Dr. Eldridge had any tattoos and, if she did, the Defendant could not remember where they were located or what they looked like. Specifically, the Defendant claimed he did not recall Dr. Eldridge as having a rose tattoo encircling her nipple. Furthermore, the Defendant did not recall sending the photograph to the Christiana Facebook group and, if he did, he did not mean to do so. The Defendant was significantly evasive and "forgetful'" throughout the entirety of the recorded interview, even when the interviewing officer made specific references to Dr. Eldridge's tattoos. The Court finds the defendant to be wholly without credibility.

         7. In an Information dated March 21, 2017, the Defendant was charged with Harassment, in violation of Title 11, Section 1311(a)(2) of the Delaware Code, on the theory that the Defendant, with the intent to harass, annoy, or alarm, communicated with Dr. Eldridge in a manner which he knew was likely to cause annoyance or alarm. The Defendant was also charged with Violation of a Protective Order, in violation of Title 10, Section 1046(e) of the Delaware Code, for sending a naked photograph of Dr. Eldridge to the Christiana Facebook group after being Court-ordered not to mention Dr. Eldridge on social media, pursuant to PFA Order number 0097003.

         8. In order to find the Defendant guilty of Harassment, the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the Defendant communicated with Dr. Eldridge in a manner that the Defendant knew was likely to cause annoyance or alarm and that he did so with the intent to harass, annoy, or alarm. To find the Defendant guilty of Violation of a Protective Order, the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a protective order was in effect and that the Defendant violated that order.

         9. The Defendant argued, inter alia, that the State has failed to prove that the Defendant communicated with Dr. Eldridge. The Defendant argues the evidence, if believed, would only establish that the Defendant sent a message to the Christiana Facebook group and that the message was only viewed and viewable by a limited class of administrators, consisting of one or two individuals.

         10. The Court finds that the Delaware Harassment statute is violated when a defendant sends messages to the Facebook group managed by the intended victim's employer, and does so with intent to harass, alarm, or annoy.[6] The Defendant intentionally directed a communication at a Facebook group belonging to Dr. Eldridge's employers and administrated by Dr. Eldridge's coworkers. The Court finds the Defendant's purpose was a vindictive one, with the manifest intent to harass, annoy, and alarm Dr. Eldridge by disseminating a compromising picture to her coworkers. The Defendant sent the picture knowing, and intending, that his doing so would cause Dr. Eldridge annoyance and alarm.

         11. Next, the Court is satisfied that the State has met its burden with respect to the charge of Violation of a Protective Order. The Court finds the Defendant communicated with Dr. Eldridge via Facebook, in spite of the prohibition contained within the PFA that he "not contact or attempt to contact [Dr. Eldridge] in any way, ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.