The Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney’s Office will not prosecute harassment charges an Annapolis-based consultant filed against a Frederick County resident, due to insufficient evidence.
Mechelle Kerns — a consultant hired by developer Plamondon Hospitality Partners as an archaeological consultant for the proposed downtown hotel project — filed harassment charges Jan. 24 against Frederick County resident Patrick Allen.
Kerns claimed in an application for a statement of charges in Anne Arundel County District Court that she is a “victim of sustained and repeated harassment” by Allen online, which she likened to cyberbullying.
Initially, a preliminary inquiry hearing was scheduled for Friday in Glen Burnie. But on Feb. 10, prosecutors filed a notice stating they would not prosecute the case.
Lesley Pattison, director of human resources for the Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney’s Office, wrote in an email that the case was not prosecuted due to insufficient evidence.
Kerns wrote in an email on Feb. 17 that she was originally advised to file criminal charges against Allen, but after a second meeting with an assistant state’s attorney, she decided she has a better civil case.
“It is my plan to pursue the case and as my client had prohibited me [under threat of termination] from proceeding with the lawsuit while actively working on the project, I can advance it now as my role in the project is now complete,” Kerns wrote in the email. “I intend to take civil legal action against Mr. Allen for libel and slander.”
Kerns wrote that her goal is to shine a light on Allen’s “absurd actions in a court of law.” She wrote that the assistant state’s attorney told her it would be difficult to pursue criminal harassment charges because Allen did not harass her directly and posted materials on his own social media accounts, which could be protected free speech.
She wrote that the situation was “a textbook case of cyberbullying, or what is sometimes called ‘trolling,’” but that no law exists to protect adults from that type of activity.
Asked about the decision not to prosecute Kerns’ allegations, Allen wrote on Feb. 16: “... I’m not sure if the Anne Arundel State’s Attorney’s office concluded the complaint did not rise to the level of prosecution or whether they performed a preliminary investigation and determined the sworn complaint was rife with false accusations. If the latter is true, that will be problematic for Kerns insofar as filing a false sworn criminal complaint is itself a criminal matter.”
Allen wrote that Kerns’ complaint had “verifiable false statements,” such as a claim that Allen tried to get her fired from a position with the U.S. Naval Academy.
In court documents, Kerns alleged Allen contacted the Naval Academy, where Kerns is an adjunct professor, and provided “false statements” in an attempt to have her terminated.
Allen wrote that he filed an ethics complaint against Kerns, but did not try to get her fired.
Kerns filed one count of harassment via a persistent pattern of conduct and one count of electronic mail harassment against Allen. Kerns alleged in the charging document that the harassment occurred between Aug. 1, 2016, and Jan. 5, 2017.
As an administrator for a Facebook group called “The Frederick Chronicles,” Allen has publicly opposed the hotel project through posts on the social media site. The posts have continually said the proposed hotel site is contaminated and have targeted various project supporters, including Kerns, who called the group page “a fake newspaper.”
In the complaint, Kerns alleged that “attacks continued and increased” after she sent Allen a registered letter asking him to cease and desist. She declared her intention to pursue a lawsuit against him for libel and slander.
In an Aug. 28 letter, Kerns threatened to sue Allen and his wife, Diana Allen, if they did not meet certain conditions within 10 days. The conditions included stopping social media posts spreading false claims about the hotel project development and issuing public apologies.
Instead, Kerns alleged, Allen posted the correspondence online and sent the text of the letter to the The News-Post.
Kerns accused Allen of using electronic communication to call for Kerns’ removal from the project.
She claimed that Allen posted “harassing and demeaning fake newspaper articles and cartoons” in September, October and November.
The proposed hotel and conference center property at 200 and 212 E. Patrick St. is owned by a business entity formed by members of the Randall family. The Randall family also owns the parent company of The Frederick News-Post.