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Judge rules harassing emails not tantamount to cyber stalking in Haywood GOP drama

A Haywood County political operative and local government critic was cleared of alleged cyberstalking charges in court last week.

Monroe Miller, 67, was accused of cyberstalking by Savannah Tedesco, 24, who claimed Miller would not stop sending her intimidating and embarrassing emails after she asked him to quit. A judge dismissed the misdemeanor cyberstalking charge.

However, a civil restraining against Miller remains in place.

Tedesco sought the restraining order to bar Miller from making derogatory and negative comments about her online or through widely circulated emails. Miller had to remove his posts about Tedesco from his website as a result, but he had attempted to argue in court that he had no other recourse to tell his side of the story or defend himself from defamation.

Miller and Tedesco were both precinct chairs in the Haywood Republican Party. Miller claimed his emails were part and parcel to conducting party affairs, but Tedesco said she continued to be hassled by Miller even after she stepped down as a precinct chair.

The cyberstalking charges played out against the larger backdrop of a rift in the Haywood GOP, with two camps vying for control of the party. Miller and Tedesco were in opposing camps.

Miller and his supporters said his emails were protected as free speech under an exemption in the state cyberstalking statute.

Miller is known for taking people to task in scathing and derogatory emails, which he disseminates widely, roping in an audience of digital spectators  — whether they want to be roped in or not. 

Jeremy Davis, who supports Miller, said the cyberstalking charges were part of a conspiracy to stop Miller from speaking out.

“It does appear that this was an attempt to shut down Monroe Miller but it seems to have backfired in a big way,” Davis wrote in a Facebook post.

Miller portrays himself as a watchdog who stands up to corruption and abuse of power by the mainstream establishment — whatever he deems that mainstream establishment to be.

He’s focused his efforts on several departments in county government, including the finance office, tax collection office, county manager’s office, county attorney’s office, election office, sediment and erosion control office and building inspection office.

He’s also gone after Haywood Community College, Haywood County School administration, the Haywood Clerk of Court, Waynesville building inspections, Waynesville sign enforcement and last but not least local newspapers, including The Mountaineer and The Smoky Mountain News.

The volume of email from Miller to county officials has plummeted since the cyberstalking charges were filed in January.

During 2014, Miller sent 350 emails to various county employees. In the two-month period following the cyberstalking charges, Miller sent only 13 emails to county employees. 

The volume dropped by 75 percent, from one a day on average to one every four days on average. The email tallies were provided under a public records request to the county.

Others who were routinely on the receiving end of Miller’s emails have noted a precipitous decline over the past two months as well.

Miller would not comment for this article, but he wrote a brief recap of his take on the court proceedings on his web site, Haywood County Toeprints.

“After hearing testimony, and specifically, having all e-mails read aloud leading up to the arrest, Judge Samet ruled that this was all political in nature. People should have read the statute in it’s entirety prior to making the charges,” Miller said. 

The cyberstalking case was heard on March 24 in Greensboro. That’s where Tedesco was living when Miller sent her the emails, so that’s where she swore out the charges.

A small entourage of supporters for both Miller and Tedesco traveled from Haywood County for the hearing last week. Former Haywood GOP Chair Pat Carr testified on Tedesco’s behalf. Carr claimed she has been a victim of Miller’s email bullying as well.

Although the cyberstalking charges didn’t stick, Tedesco said in a written statement that she was pleased the district attorney’s office in Guilford County was willing to take the case and give it a shot. And she said the civil restraining order was vindicating.

“I would encourage anyone who feels harassed by Monroe Miller, or anyone else, to exercise their rights under the law,” Tedesco said.

In an email sent to members of the Haywood County Republican Party by Miller’s camp last month, a tongue-in-cheek disclaimer appeared at the end of the email.

“Pursuant to Proper Etiquette and N.C.G.S. 14-196.3, this e-mail conforms to Section (e) which applies to any peaceable, nonviolent, or nonthreatening activity intended to express political views or to provide lawful information to others,” the disclaimer read.

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