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Classic Precedents:  Stalking by Proxy

State v. Becklin (2008) Washington Supreme Court

Enlisting Others To Do Your Dirty Work

Andre Paul Becklin was accused of stalking his ex-girlfriend, Mary Alison McGee. At his trial, the Prosecutor presented evidence that Becklin had directed several of his friends to follow McGee and report back to him regarding her activities. The State argued:

Assistance. Aiding and abetting. That's what it is, that's what this case is about, is enlisting others to do your own dirty work, and that's what Mr. Becklin did.

The jury asked for clarity: Can you stalk a party through a third person? The Judge said "Yes" after hearing arguments from both sides. The jury convicted Becklin of stalking; he was sentenced to 12 months.

Becklin appealed, saying the Trial Judge improperly answered the jury's question. The Court of Appeals agreed and reversed the conviction.

The State then petitioned the Washington Supreme Court for review. Final ruling: The original instruction to the jury was accurate: stalking includes directing others to harass a victim. The Supreme Court restored the conviction. Becklin went to jail.

Legal arguments unique to the Becklin case

In this case, the Washington Supreme Court first considered accomplice liability:

A person is an accomplice of another person in commission of a crime if:

(a) With knowledge that it will promote or facilitate the commission of the crime, he (i) solicits, commands, encourages, or requests such other person to commit it; or (ii) aids or agrees to aid such other person in planning or committing it; or

(b) His conduct is expressly declared by law to establish his complicity.

But accomplice liability need not be proven if the crime of stalking encompasses the act of directing a third party to follow or harass a victim. The Washington Supreme Court chose this path, saying: The plain-language interpretation of some criminal statutes clearly contemplates the involvement of third parties.

The stalking statute includes any form of communication, contact, or conduct that seriously alarms, annoys, harasses, or is detrimental to the victim. Directing others to follow or otherwise harass a victim can be a form of communication, contact, or conduct that amounts to harassment contemplated under the stalking statute.

While the criminal stalking statutory scheme does not explicitly refer to harassment through third parties, the definition of course of conduct contemplates a broad range of harassing activities including manipulation or direction of third parties to achieve the intended emotional distress of a victim.

In sum, the plain language of the stalking statute is broad enough to encompass the act of directing third parties to follow and intimidate a victim.

Georgena S. Sil
Saskatoon, Canada
Physicist & Technical Writer
Alumnus: University of British Columbia

Copyright © 2008-2018 Georgena Sil. All Rights Reserved.