Govt employee guilty of 'bizarre' harassment

A government employee has been found guilty of stalking a Dunedin businessman through a “bizarre campaign” which lasted two and a-half years.

The 39-year-old man was convicted of criminal harassment, threatening to cause grievous bodily harm and intentional damage when Judge Paul Kellar gave his reserved decision at the Dunedin District Court this morning.

“What started out as something [the defendant] may have regarded as a prank escalated into threats to harm [the victim],” the judge said.

The public servant, who stood trial on the charges last month, was granted name suppression at least until sentencing.

The victim and his sister – a high-profile professional - have permanent name suppression.

The men first crossed paths on June 14, 2012, when the defendant parked his car blocking the rear entrance to the victim’s business.

It resulted in a $40 ticket which led to a confrontation between the men.

The state employee parked in a similar spot the next day which resulted in an angry text from the businessman - ‘‘clever parking d***head’’ - and a Facebook post related to the incident.
“From what should have been an innocuous incident about parking I am sure that [the defendant] engaged in a sustained period of harassment of [the victim] for a period of over two years,” Judge Kellar said.

Some months later, the businessman began receiving text messages and phone calls from gay males interested in meeting for sex.

After making enquiries, he discovered his contact details had been written in several locations at a known meeting spot.

‘‘I found my phone number was plastered all around it written in pen saying I was gay and looking for a good time, that I could be there in five minutes, and I had all sorts of men texting me from there,’’ the victim said.

‘‘I was pretty upset. I was standing up there crying because my name was everywhere.’’

In 2014, the defendant created a fake profile on a dating website using the victim’s photo and contact details.

The advertisement had the title ‘‘new gay male to play’’ and people were encouraged to get in touch with the man.

During the trial, the court heard how the man received threatening text messages, a sex toy in the mail, photos of himself defaced with phallic images and businesses neighbouring his own were sent a letter claiming the man was being investigated by police for sex offences.

His name was also graffitied around Dunedin, including one instance when it was written in huge letters on a park using weed killer.

“It was a living hell, to be honest,” the victim said.

The Crown said the offending was ‘‘sophisticated and orchestrated’’ but the smoking gun, in terms of evidence, came after police searched the defendant’s car.

In the central console was a hand-written note bearing an email address very similar to the one used to set up the fake internet-dating profile.

On the paper was also a phone number, from which the victim had received abusive text messages, and the letters ‘‘NZD’’, which prosecutor Mitchell McClenaghan said referred to the website New Zealand Dating where the complainant’s contact details were posted.

The forensic electronic data found on the defendant’s computer was ‘‘the nail in the coffin’’, he said.

On two occasions, the defendant saved numerous Facebook photos of the business owner, some of which included his family.

‘‘It was an unhealthy, obsessive and peculiar interest in a man he once had a parking dispute with,’’ Mr McClenaghan said.

The charge of threatening to do GBH came from texts sent on December 2, 2014, when the defendant told the man to ‘‘buy something bullet proof’’ and to ‘‘get your affairs in order’’.

Judge Kellar confirmed the defendant would not face a jail term when he was sentenced at an as yet unconfirmed date.

Defence counsel Anne Stevens accepted her client would have to pay the victim a substantial sum for emotional harm.