U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Massachusetts reporter arrested for threatening Walpole Times reporter

Incident Details

October 1, 2019 - Update

Charges dropped in case of threat toward Walpole Times reporter

The misdemeanor charge against Amy Zuckerman of threatening to shoot a Walpole Times reporter was dropped at the recommendation of the Massachusetts Probation Service on Oct. 1, 2019.

Zuckerman was arrested July 7, 2018, on a felony charge of making terroristic threats toward a reporter the day prior. Zuckerman, who is also a journalist, was accused of threatening to shoot the reporter, who had repeatedly asked Zuckerman to remove his name from an email list.

Zuckerman was released without bail in March but was subsequently accused of violating the terms of her release and arrested on warrants. Those terms included not contacting any news media agencies (or having someone contact on her behalf), not using the internet, and wearing a GPS bracelet.

Zuckerman was also required to attend evaluations at the Solomon Carter Fuller Mental Health Center in Boston.

According to the Daily Hampshire Gazette, the organization sought a trespass notice against Zuckerman the same day as the Walpole Times incident, because it also received a threat.

Since the closure of her case, Zuckerman said she is asking the Human Rights Commission to ensure that published reports of arrests include a disclaimer that the charges could later be dropped.

July 6, 2018

Reporter Amy Zuckerman was arrested at her home in Shutesbury, Massachusetts, on July 7, 2018, on a warrant charging her with making terroristic threats in emails to a reporter at the Walpole Times the day before.

The Walpole Times, based in Walpole, Massachusetts, is owned by GateHouse Media. Its reporter, who was unnamed, had asked Zuckerman to remove him from a mailing list multiple times.

“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 WBZ-TV CBS Boston in July. “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.”

Zuckerman’s arrest came one week after Jarrod Ramos was charged with five counts of first-degree murder for the shooting deaths of Capital Gazette employees in Annapolis, Maryland, on June 28.

Anne Brennan, Regional Director of News and Operations for GateHouse Media New England’s West Unit, explained her concern in a statement to the paper:

“The email contained what we believe to be a very serious threat of physical harm. The nature of the threat was very specific. 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. 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 same day of the Walpole Times incident, the Daily Hampshire Gazette filed trespassing charges against Zuckerman after she was asked to leave due to her behavior, according to the Amherst Bulletin. Afterward, Zuckerman sent an email to the Gazette, which referenced the Capital Gazette shooting and was also threatening, according to MetroWest Daily News.

Zuckerman, 64, pleaded not guilty to the Walpole Times incident during a July District Court arraignment hearing. She was found to be a danger to the public and ordered to be held without bail, WHDH 7 News, a Boston television station, reported. On Aug. 6, Zuckerman was released, then arrested the following day after violating conditions of that release.

During a hearing at the Norfolk Superior Court on Aug. 13, the charges against Zuckerman were downgraded from making terroristic threats, a felony, to threatening to commit a crime, a misdemeanor.

In December, Zuckerman turned herself into Belchertown District Court after a warrant was issued for her arrest following a second probation violation. On Jan. 3, 2019, Zuckerman was arrested for her third probation violation, attempting to contact members of the media. She was released without bail.

A spokesperson for GateHouse Media originally said the Walpole reporters and editors would return following the incident with heightened security, but MetroWest Daily News later reported that the office has since closed, and the reporter who was allegedly threatened has left the company.

The threat case is ongoing. MetroWest Daily News reported that Zuckerman is currently undergoing evaluation after her lawyer filed a motion for an assessment of her competency to stand trial. Zuckerman is scheduled to appear in court for a status hearing this week.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected].