U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Three men charged with vandalizing homes of two NH radio journalists

Incident Details

September 8, 2023 - Update

Four men indicted for vandalizing journalists’ homes

Four New Hampshire men were indicted on Sept. 8 for allegedly vandalizing the homes of New Hampshire Public Radio journalists Lauren Chooljian and Dan Barrick, according to a press release from the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Chooljian’s current and former residences, her parents’ home and Barrick’s home were vandalized in April and May 2022 with the spray-painted word “CUNT” and bricks and rocks thrown through the windows. Chooljian’s home was also spray-painted with the words “JUST THE BEGINNING.”

The four men — Eric Labarge, Keenan Saniatan, Tucker Cockerline and Michael Waselchuck — were charged in Boston for conspiracy to commit stalking through interstate travel and/or the use of a facility of interstate commerce. Labarge was arrested on Sept. 8; the other three men have been in custody since June.

Each charge in the indictment carries a maximum sentence of up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, according to the press release.

The indictment connects the vandalism to Chooljian’s 2022 reporting on New Hampshire businessman Eric Spofford and alleges that Labarge is his “close personal associate.”

June 15, 2023

Federal prosecutors filed charges against three New Hampshire men in Boston, Massachusetts, on June 15, 2023, for allegedly conspiring to harass and intimidate two radio journalists.

New Hampshire Public Radio’s Lauren Chooljian was the lead producer on a March 2022 investigation into New Hampshire businessman Eric Spofford and his alleged pattern of sexual misconduct and retaliation while CEO of a network of addiction rehabilitation centers.

On the night of April 24-25, 2022, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts, Chooljian’s former residence in Hanover, New Hampshire, and NHPR News Director Dan Barrick’s home in Concord, New Hampshire, were vandalized with the word “CUNT” spray-painted in red letters on the front door. The home of Chooljian’s parents in Hampstead, New Hampshire, was also targeted, with the word painted across one of its garage doors and a rock thrown through a front window.

Nearly a month later, on May 21, Chooljian’s current residence in Melrose, Massachusetts, was vandalized. The phrase “JUST THE BEGINNING” was spray-painted across the front of the house. Her parents’ home was also vandalized a second time.

Following the last attack, Chooljian posted a photo of the damage on Twitter and condemned the attacks.

"5 incidents of vandalism targeting journalists," she wrote. "Here's my house. It's not okay."

While Chooljian and her colleagues do not claim to know who was behind it, they told The New York Times earlier that they believe it’s connected to the investigation on Spofford. Spofford filed a defamation suit against Chooljian and three coworkers after the initial NHPR investigation was published, and the case was dismissed in April 2023. A judge ordered Chooljian on May 30 to turn over full recordings and notes from six interviews, including two with anonymous sources, to the court for review ahead of a possible refiling of the suit.

Three New Hampshire men — Tucker Cockerline, Michael Waselchuck and Keenan Saniatan — were each charged with “conspiring to commit stalking through interstate travel,” according to court records. Cockerline and Waselchuck were apprehended on June 16, but Saniatan remains at large.

The men conspired with at least one other person — a close personal associate of Spofford — to retaliate against the NHPR journalists for the investigation, according to an FBI affidavit.

In a statement, Acting United States Attorney Joshua S. Levy said: “Today’s charges should send a clear message that the Department of Justice will not tolerate harassment or intimidation of journalists. If you engage in this type of vicious and vindictive behavior you will be held accountable.”

A preliminary hearing for Cockerline and Waselchuck was scheduled for June 20.

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