A Massachusetts woman is being held on terrorism charges for threatening to shoot into a newspaper office during business hours.
Amy Zuckerman, 64, of Schutesbury, Massachusetts, was arrested on Saturday, July 7, after sending a threatening email to a reporter at the Walpole Times office on Friday, July 6.
“The specific threats were mentioned shooting a firearm through the window of The Walpole Times while people were there,” Walpole Police Chief John Carmichael told CBS News.
“We figure that we had to give some credibility to it especially in light of what just happened in Maryland … we took it seriously, the people at Walpole Times took it seriously,” Chief Carmichael said.
Walpole police found that Zuckerman had a history of confrontation. Officers from three Massachusetts police departments—Amherst, Northampton, and Shutesbury—said they believed she has psychological issues, MetroWest Daily News reported.
There were three harassment-prevention orders filed against her—one was a lifetime order.
After emailing the threat to the Walpole Times, Zuckerman went to the offices of the Daily Hampshire Gazette in Northampton, MetroWest reported.
Gazette Publisher Michael Rifanburg would not reveal details of what happened when Zuckerman got there, but did say that the newspaper got a “no-trespass” order against Zuckerman, barring her from returning to the building.
Walpole police obtained an arrest warrant on July 7, and Amherst police arrested Zuckerman later that day.
Zuckerman was charged with making terroristic threats. She was arraigned on July 9 in Wrentham District Court, where prosecutor Courtney Kiernan requested Zuckerman be held without bail pending a hearing on July 11 to determine if she presented a danger to the public.
Amy Zuckerman dangerousness hearing continued to Monday morning. Closing arguments and a possible mental health competency review of Zuckerman by a clinician on Monday. She is held without bail until Monday. pic.twitter.com/NqGFOXLTXK
— Henry Schwan (@henrymetrowest) July 11, 2018
Investigators checked Zuckerman’s social media accounts and found a record of complaints against a range of people and companies, from former landlords to the insurance industry to the car maker Toyota.
Some posts included comments about blowing up an area power plant, and also about blowing up an oil tank with hand grenades, MetroWest reported.
Oil tanks run two blocks long and two stories along the north side of the power plant. How many hand grenades would it take to blow them up? Let me know so I can alert the right the right people
— amy zuckerman (@az25992988) February 5, 2018
These were part of an ongoing conflict Zuckerman apparently had with Congressman Richard Neal, according to MassLive. In one of her tweets, Zuckerman claims that one of Neal’s top aides reported her to Homeland Security as a terrorist.
Zuckerman is an author, a business owner, and a freelance journalist. She frequently sent long, rambling emails to regional news outlets, apparently pitching stories she hoped to co-write with staff journalists. She had sent such emails to MetroWest Daily News, The Daily Hampshire Gazette, and The Republican, MassLive reported.
The journalist who received the threat had asked to be taken of Zuckerman’s email list.
The threatened journalist told her he didn’t cover any of the issues or areas she mentioned and asked that she stop sending the emails. Her response mentioned shooting through the front window of the Walpole Times office.
Anne Brennan, editor-in-chief of the MetroWest Daily News and Milford Daily News, said that it was the specificity of the threat that prompted action.
“Oftentimes as a journalist you receive threats, people get angry at you, but they’re not specific about what they’re going to do to you, sometimes they say they will cancel their subscription or something of that nature,” Brennan told Masslive.
“This was a very specific threat of physical harm that not only put the journalist who received it in jeopardy but the other people in that office as well, which is why we’re taking it very seriously.”
The Walpole Times office on 7 West Street has a large bay window facing the street. Seven different weekly publications work out of the same office, all owned by GateHouse Media.
The office had to be closed Friday.
Lisa Strattan, vice president of news for GateHouse New England, told MetroWest Daily News that security at all Gatehouse offices across the country were now being reviewed.
“It’s always under constant review, not only here in Massachusetts, but across the whole company,” she said on Monday. “It’s undergoing a specific review right now.”
Zuckerman’s lawyer, Michael Stapleton, said that the threatening email was misunderstood and the result of electronic errors.
“A lot of what the prosecutor read from the email was taken out of context,” Stapleton told MetroWest.
Stapleton claimed that Zuckerman composed the email using a voice-to-text feature which garbled the message. Rather than threatening to shoot the reporter, Stapleton claimed, Zuckerman was trying to warn him about the threats facing journalists.
Zuckerman had been a journalist for 44 years, Stapleton noted, and had been running her own strategic marketing business, A-Z International Associates, since 1991.
Zuckerman is the co-author, with James Daly, of the children’s book 2030: A Day in the Life of Tomorrow’s Kids, which won the 2012 Grand Canyon Reader Award for non-fiction.
Zuckerman’s tweets also reveal an interest in social justice and environmental protection.
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