CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A Massachusetts man faces federal charges of threatening and attempted extortion of a Kanawha County Judge.
Keith Lessard, 40, of Uxbridge, Mass. was arrested this week on charges he sent threats to the judge through the mail and via e-mail attempting to extort money.
“Anytime there’s a threat to a member of the judiciary at any level, federal, state, or local, we take that very seriously,” said U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart of West Virginia’s Southern District.
According to the criminal complaint, Lessard’s correspondence with the judge was part of a scheme to extort money from her by threatening to sully her reputation. The threats involved claiming she had been part of an illegal prosecution on a 2010 criminal case against Lessard. The judge at the time was an assistant prosecutor for Kanawha County. The complaint added there was no evidence to back up Lessard’s claim of illegal conduct on her part.
“I have made personally a big deal out of public corruption, but it also works the other way which is an elected official or judge is extorted to act in a way that’s not consistent with their behaviors of the past,” Stuart said.
Stuart said when they first learned of the allegations they wanted to move quickly on the case.
“Typically you might see an indictment, but we moved by virtue of the complaint and we now have 30 days to obtain an indictment against this individual, which of course we will do,” he added.
Paperwork in the case did not identity of the judge. Stuart said all crime victims have the right to privacy and they tried to honor that in the criminal complaint.
“We do the best we can that every victim of any crime doesn’t become a double-victim by being named explicitly in these documents,” he said.
If convicted of the charges, Lessard could face up to two years in federal prison.