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Zoey, JD
Zoey, JD, Attorney
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A few weeks ago, someone apparently forwarded to the DC Police

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A few weeks ago, someone apparently forwarded to the DC Police Division of Criminal Intelligence a telephone message addressed to me that apparently contained accusations of making terrorist threats among other things. I never heard the message, so I am relying on the detective's account of the matter which, frankly, did not completely make sense to me.

I called the detective back and he closed the matter. However, today I received another message from a detective in the same bureau. I happened not to have my cell phone with me, to which the call was directed. I think this probably concerns a repeat of the last occurrence.

I am petrified. Apart from some all-American profanity in the sanctity of my apartment with the door closed--comments addressed to the television set--I haven't said or done anything to merit such an accusation. But this person--perhaps a neighbor in my building--apparently is out to get me at any cost.

Should I call the detective back or get an attorney to do it?

If I do call back, what can I safely say? Is there any defense against a campaign of defamation conducted in this way?

I wouldn't call the detective back. If the matter was closed the first time and a detective wants additional information, then the odds are good that they didn't believe all you said the first time.

When you are a potential suspect, you should never talk to the police without a lawyer. That's a fundamental right you have under the 5th Amendment -- to refrain from self-incrimination. Anything you say to police, even when you think it will be helpful to your cause can be turned on your head and used against you.

If the police have enough to arrest you, let them come get you without helping them build a stronger case. If the police don't have enough to arrest you, that's all the more reason not to call them back and talk, because you could end up giving them the one tidbit they need to have probable cause to take you in.

You should talk to your lawyer before calling them back at all. If he is an experienced criminal lawyer, he's going to tell you to keep your mouth shut and not to talk to the police, because there is nothing that you can safely say, since you don't know what they are looking to hear. If they call you and you pick up the phone just tell them that you are waiting to hear from your lawyer have nothing further to say about this incident at this time.

As you don't appear to know who's targeting you, there isn't much you can do about this right now. But if you are arrested and charged, you will learn the name of the complainant and what you're alleged to have done. If you win the case, then you potentially could sue him for malicious prosecution, or report him to the prosecutor and try to get him charged with filing a false report.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

I think I do know who is doing this--my next-door neighbor. Furthermore, I am pretty sure that she has called the police a second time because I was doing some major league cussing at the TV during the news.


The problem is that I will have to have a background investigation soon and this seems likely to come up. It looks as if I stand to lose my livelihood even if I am not arrested or charged.


This should not turn up on a background check if it is merely in the investigative phases. You were never printed, booked, arrested, or charged. If this is the only blot on your personal history along these lines, it is not on your criminal record and would not turn up on a print check. An employer cannot even ask you about something like this.
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Customer: replied 4 years ago.

OK--I think you've pretty much said all you can. and I am satisfied.


The deeper issue though is how can I keep this person from continuing to make these horrible, irresponsible calls? It's like having Big Brother looking over your shoulder 24x7. I can't afford to move, and the constant dripping of these accusations can only create a bigger and bigger file on me.


What about NSA, the FBI, no-fly lists, and the rest of it? I work as a gov't contractor, though by choice I have never applied for a true security clearance, as I do not wish to be involved with any secret activities, preferring straightforward public service roles. Nevertheless, I have to maintain a Public Trust. I live in dread of the day that I am expected to apply for a Secret.


I'm 65 years old and I have to continue this charade for another five years at least before I can even think about retiring. With this person listening to every sound in my apartment, how can I manage? This is the nightmare of every citizen in a police state.


Sorry to go on like this--as I've said, this is terrifying and I am profoundly upset. But any further info you could provide would be greatly appreciated--particularly about ways to put a stop to what may amount to a campaign of slander and worse.


Well, yes. I suppose if you were going for a deep security check, then your friends, neighbors and acquaintances would be contacted, but frankly, given your age (which is also mine) that's a big if at this point in your career.

While I understand how upset you are, and I know also how miserable a bad neighbor can make one feel, have a little bit of faith in our police departments. The more this person complains, the more the authorities are likely to think she's just a crackpot. Honestly? If they believed you were a threat to national security, they wouldn't want to talk to you. You would already be in jail or out on bail right now.

If you're sure it's your neighbor, when you talk to your lawyer tomorrow ask him whether you can bring a defamation action against her for her false complaints or have her prosecuted for filing false reports. But I would be concerned of escalating this, when right now the police find no merit in her complaints. People who are unreasonable by nature don't generally get more reasonable when their backs are against the wall.