By DENISE LAVOIE
AP Legal Affairs Writer
September 1, 2014 10:49 AM
BOSTON (AP) Bernadette Lyons came home one day and found 10 strangers milling around her driveway looking for free golf carts.
The next day, her husband, Jim, began getting phone calls late at night from people inquiring about a Harley Davidson motorcycle. The couple also received an anonymous email containing their Social Security numbers and other personal information, along with a message: Remember, if you arent miserable, I aint happy! The clincher came when child-protection workers knocked on their door and said they were investigating a report that Jim Lyons had physically abused their 13-year-old son.
It was overwhelming, Bernadette Lyons said. Every day, we woke up not knowing what was going to happen. We were very scared.
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The couples neighbors in Andover, William and Gail Johnson, were convicted of harassing the Lyonses, helped by a friend who admitted placing fake Craigslist ads and sending the anonymous email at the behest of William Johnson.
The Johnsons are appealing their convictions, arguing that their actions were protected by the First Amendment right to free speech. The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, the states highest court, is scheduled to hear arguments in the case Wednesday.
Trouble between the once-friendly neighbors began in 2003, after William Johnson said he wanted to develop land he owned behind the Lyonses home into a small subdivision. The Lyonses and other neighbors objected, and years of litigation followed.