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Second man pleads guilty to charges related to intimidation of NHPR journalist

A screenshot from security camera footage shared by the Middlesex County District Attorney in May 2022.
Middlesex County District Attorney
A screenshot from security camera footage shared by the Middlesex County District Attorney in May 2022.

This story was reported by WBUR and shared through the New England News Collaborative.

A New Hampshire man pled guilty in federal court in Boston on Thursday to charges related to a conspiracy to harass and intimidate New Hampshire Public Radio (NHPR) journalists and relatives, according to the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney's Office.

Michael Waselchuck, of Seabrook, New Hampshire, pled guilty to conspiracy to commit stalking through interstate travel and the use of a facility of interstate commerce, the U.S. attorney's office said in a statement.

Waselchuck was arrested in June, and indicted in September, along with Tucker Cockerline, Keenan Saniatan and Eric Labarge, all from New Hampshire. Cockerline pleaded guilty in December.

In spring 2022, NHPR journalist Lauren Chooljian published a story detailing allegations of sexual assault and harassment by Eric Spofford, the founder of New Hampshire’s largest network of addiction treatment centers. After, Chooljian's home in Melrose, Massachusetts, along with her former home in New Hampshire as well as the homes of her parents and editor, Dan Barrick, were hit with a series of vandalism attacks.

Spofford sued Chooljian, three fellow journalists and NHPR, for defamation in 2022 following the publication of the story. The case was dismissed, with a New Hampshire judge ruling that the lawsuit lacked clear evidence.

Prosecutors say that Labarge was a close friend of Spofford, the subject of the NHPR story. Labarge allegedly solicited Cockerline to vandalize Chooljian's parents' home in New Hampshire and her home in Melrose. Cockerline then allegedly solicited Waselchuck to help him. According to the charging documents, Waselchuck threw a brick through a window and spray-painted the words "JUST THE BEGINNING" on Chooljian's house on May 20, 2022.

Waselchuck sentencing is scheduled for May 10. Each charge carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine.