U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Publisher charged with harassment by former New York county supervisor

Incident Details

Date of Incident
June 13, 2023

Arrest/Criminal Charge

Arresting Authority
Lake Luzerne Town Court
Unnecessary use of force?

A portion of a criminal summons issued to June Maxam, an investigative reporter and publisher of the North Country Gazette, on June 13, 2023, charging her with second-degree harassment and ordering her to appear in court later that month.

June 13, 2023

June Maxam, an investigative reporter and publisher of the North Country Gazette in Chestertown, New York, was charged with second-degree harassment on June 13, 2023, following a complaint filed against her by a former member of the Board of Supervisors in surrounding Warren County.

Maxam told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that she reported in fall 2022 about questions of whether At-Large Supervisor Rachel Seeber Conine still resided in the town she represented. Seeber Conine announced her resignation from the position in November, citing her desire to focus on her family and career.

Over the months that followed, Maxam said, Seeber Conine and her husband filed more than a dozen complaints against Maxam, all of which were dismissed for being fundamentally unsound. Seeber Conine filed her latest complaint against Maxam on May 25, 2023, alleging that the journalist was harassing her by continuously engaging in behaviors that caused her “annoyance or alarm.”

In the complaint, Seeber Conine wrote that she had sent Maxam a cease-and-desist letter on Dec. 12, 2022, “and since then June has written articles lying about me, filing false statements with local and state agencies and publishing.” She also alleged that Maxam “sent these false and alarming statements to my place of employment trying to discredit me, embarrass me, and get my employer to fire me.”

In April 2023, Maxam wrote an editorial highlighting that the former supervisor had shared a promotion for a sale on firearms. According to Maxam, Seeber Conine alleged that Maxam then sent a link to the article to Seeber Conine’s employer.

“I didn’t send the email, didn’t write the email, have no knowledge of the email she claims she received and now — a year later — they still can’t produce it because it doesn’t exist,” Maxam said.

Maxam was issued a criminal summons based on Seeber Conine’s complaint, which ordered her to appear before the Justice Court of the Town of Lake Luzerne for arraignment on June 21, 2023. Maxam entered a not guilty plea on Aug. 16, according to court filings reviewed by the Tracker, after which her case was transferred among multiple courts following the recusal of several judges.

In an April 2024 filing, an attorney representing Maxam argued that the charges were an attempt to criminalize speech by a journalist and a newspaper that have served the community for more than 30 years.

“Rachel Seeber does not like articles that June Maxam writes in the North Country Gazette about her,” James Knox wrote. “Rachel Seeber attempted to rely on the influence of her husband — a retired member of Warren County Sheriff’s Department — to secure favorable treatment by New York State police, in getting the charges she wanted filed against a person she does not like, in a jurisdiction she wanted, to prohibit June Maxam from continuing to freely operate her paper.”

The district attorney pursuing the charges, Emily Williams, argued in a filing that the assertion that Seeber Conine had shopped for a jurisdiction that would be favorable to them was unfounded. “Whether or not she personally felt like the Judge would dislike the defendant has no bearing on this case and is also completely irrelevant at this point due to the Town of Chester Judge recusing before a criminal summons was ever issued.”

Williams also dismissed allegations that the complaints were part of a scheme to build a civil case against Maxam, noting, “Most of the time, there are civil remedies for crime victims in addition to criminal liability.”

Maxam told the Tracker that neither Seeber Conine nor her husband have ever requested retractions or corrections from her or the Gazette. She confirmed in May that the charge against her is still pending.

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