A Buffalo City Court judge Thursday dismissed an aggravated harassment charge filed last year against community activist Darnell Jackson Sr. after another City Court judge complained to police that he had sent her a Facebook message that she found annoying and alarming.
City Judge Craig D. Hannah threw out the misdemeanor charge after Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III moved to dismiss it because he said prosecutors didn’t have sufficient proof.
Sedita said that while they could prove that Jackson sent the message Dec. 4 to City Judge Betty Calvo-Torres on Facebook, where they are friends, they could not prove that he sent it “in a manner likely to cause annoyance or harm” and “with the intent to harass, annoy, threaten or alarm.”
The district attorney, in a Wednesday letter to Hannah outlining the motion to dismiss, noted that last summer and fall, Calvo-Torres presided over a criminal case in which Jackson was charged with child endangerment, weapon possession and assault in a 2012 incident. The judge placed the case on the reserve calendar and dismissed it last October because the prosecution was not ready for trial, according to Scott Lupiani, Jackson’s attorney.
After the case was dismissed, Jackson on Dec. 4 sent Calvo-Torres a private Facebook message complaining about the way she had treated him during court proceedings, Lupiani said.
“Can’t believe how rude you were to me, after I supported you, God don’t like Ugly, Revenge is a Mother, Have a Blessed Holiday Season, Cause I will,” Jackson said in the message.
Calvo-Torres immediately filed a complaint with the Buffalo Police Department, Sedita said, resulting in a charge of second-degree aggravated harassment against Jackson, 56, of Barthel Street.
Jackson told the arresting officer: “I said revenge was a mother. She was really rude to me when I beat those charges. You know that stuff I put on her Facebook page ain’t that serious.”
Sedita said police did not contact his office to discuss whether a crime had occurred or whether further investigation was warranted. Jackson was arrested the same day the judge filed her complaint.
Sedita said Assistant District Attorney Danielle Soluri and Chief DA Investigator Joseph Riga interviewed Calvo-Torres on Dec. 6. He said Calvo-Torres described Jackson as disrespectful and belligerent, and noted that he “rolled his eyes” during court appearances, but she conceded that he had never threatened her before.
The judge theorized that she and Jackson had become Facebook friends because she accepted all social networking offers, the district attorney said.
“Neither the wisdom nor the propriety of a judge socially networking with someone like Jackson was explored further,” Sedita said.
“The proper course of conduct is not to file a charge,” he told The Buffalo News. “The proper course of conduct is to unfriend” the person sending the message.
Sedita in his letter described Jackson as a convicted felon turned self-proclaimed “community activist.”
“Jackson’s most noteworthy talent seems to be his ability to embroil himself in public squabbles, especially with elected officials, police officers and prosecutors,” he said. “His strife-filled universe of manufactured controversy and pined-for publicity has now ensnared a member of the judiciary.”
Jackson said the district attorney and Buffalo police criticize him because he stands up for his inner-city, black community and protests injustice. “When you stand up here, you’re labeled a troublemaker,” he said.
He said Sedita and the police are not involved in his community. “Sedita stands up in his office and criticizes me for my work in the community, but he never comes into our community,” he said.
Jackson said the fact that two cases against him have been dismissed shows that he is being unfairly targeted by authorities, but he vowed to continue to protest and work against unemployment, poverty and injustice in the inner city.
“That’s why I’m a troublemaker, because the squeaky wheel gets the oil,” he said.