For Immediate Release - December 02, 2011

Andover Couple Who Harassed State Representative Sentenced to Jail

A Lawrence District Court jury late yesterday afternoon found William Johnson and Gail Johnson, both 53, of 36 Vale Lane, Andover, guilty of criminally harassing State Representative James Lyons and his wife Bernadette. The motive for the harassment was a land dispute.

Judge Michael Uhlarik sentenced William Johnson to 2 ½ years in the House of Correction, 18 months to be served, the balance suspended with probation.  Gail Johnson was sentenced to 2 years in the House of Correction, six months to be served, the balance suspended for three years with probation.  Both defendants were ordered to have no contact with and stay away from the victims.

In addition, William Johnson was found guilty of filing a false report with DSS and fined $1,000.  Gail Johnson was found not guilty of that charge.  Both were found not guilty of identity fraud.

Essex Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Kunsch proved that from March through May of 2008, the Johnsons employed several forms of harassment against the Lyons’, who are their neighbors.  They posted false listings on Craigslist advertising free golf carts and a Harley Davidson Trike, encouraging people to come to the Lyons’ house, or call after 10 p.m.

The Johnsons also sent an anonymous email to the Lyons family which included all of the victims’ personal information, including their social security numbers.  It included the tag line, “If you aren’t miserable, I aint happy.” 

On March 27, 2008, Bill Johnson called DCF and filed a frivolous report of abuse against James.  Police, along with the Department of Children and Families arrived at Lyons’ home at 10:30 that same night to investigate, but determined the report was false and closed the case that evening.   

The Johnsons facilitated the online harassment by directing a friend to send the emails from his computer.  The friend, Gerald Colton, 58, of Lowell, told investigators he thought it was a prank between the Johnsons and the Lyons, whom the Johnsons called their friends.  Colton, who was a cooperating witness at the Johnsons’ trial, faces charges of identity fraud and criminal harassment, and is scheduled to be in court on December 7 for a hearing.   

William Johnson was represented by Attorney Ronald Ranta.  Gail Johnson was represented by Attorney Susan McNeill.

Prosecutor Kunsch praised the investigative work of Andover Police Sgt. Chad Cooper and Massachusetts State Police Sgt. Thomas Neff.