WRENTHAM — A Western Massachusetts woman charged with threatening to shoot a reporter will remain held without bail until Monday, when a hearing continues to determine if her release poses a public danger.
Amy Zuckerman, 64, of Shutesbury, appeared in shackles Wednesday in Wrentham District Court for a dangerousness hearing.
Judge Maureen McManus allowed Ms. Zuckerman to sit beside her court-appointed lawyer, Ethan Yankowitz, so she could confer with counsel and take notes. Defendants in dangerousness hearings normally stand, or sit, behind a bullet-proof barrier in the Wrentham courtroom.
Ms. Zuckerman was arrested Saturday by Amherst police on a warrant by Walpole police. She is charged with making a terrorist threat after authorities allege Ms. Zuckerman sent an email Friday to a Walpole Times reporter that twice stated she would “shoot you” through the Times’ front window.
The Walpole Times is owned by Gatehouse Media, which also owns the Telegram & Gazette and MetroWest Daily News.
“I need to make a careful and thoughtful decision,” Judge McManus said before continuing the hearing.
Monday’s continuance will include closing arguments, and Judge McManus’s examination of 30 exhibit documents, including emails and police reports. Ms. Zuckerman could receive a mental health evaluation Monday, Judge McManus said.
The Walpole Times office has been closed since Ms. Zuckerman’s threat. When reporters return, an armed guard will be present, according to Lisa Strattan, vice president of news for GateHouse New England.
“Mental health issues are the driving force behind (the defendant’s) actions,” Assistant District Attorney Courtney Kiernan said in court. Ms. Zuckerman worked for the Telegram & Gazette and for Worcester Magazine many years ago.
Walpole police Officer Gaelen Beberman detailed the sequence of events in court testimony Wednesday that led to Ms. Zuckerman’s email, which he called “concerning.” The reporter and Editor-in-Chief Anne Brennan reported the email threat to Officer Beberman.
The reporter declined to cover a story Ms. Zuckerman pitched, Officer Beberman said. Ms. Zuckerman sent more correspondence, and the reporter asked her to stop sending him emails. That’s when the email threat was sent, according to Officer Beberman. That wasn’t the first time Ms. Zuckerman sent emails to reporters at the Times, Officer Beberman said.
The charge of a terrorist threat was based on Ms. Zuckerman’s email threat, Officer Beberman said. In court testimony, Officer Beberman said he also examined Ms. Zuckerman’s Twitter posts, which he called “alarming.” One Twitter post, Officer Beberman said, included “blowing up power plants in the area of UMass-Amherst.” Another post, Officer Beberman said, mentioned oil tanks around the power plants and how many grenades it would take to blow them up.
Officer Beberman contacted police in Amherst, Shutesbury and Northampton, who told him they are familiar with Ms. Zuckerman. Amherst police said there were many reports about mental health issues, Officer Beberman said in court testimony.
“Based on my investigation, it’s likely Amy Zuckerman suffers from some form of mental health issue,” Officer Beberman said. He said he sought to hold her under a state law, colloquially known as Section 12. The law provides for emergency restraint and hospitalization of a person who represents a danger to him or herself or others.
Mr. Yankowitz attempted to show Ms. Zuckerman is not a public threat. He asked Officer Beberman if in any of his conversations with Amherst, Northampton and Shutesbury police whether they indicated she is a danger to the public.
“The officers (I spoke with) never said they had incidents of (Ms. Zuckerman) being wild, or violence,” Officer Beberman said.
Mr. Yankowitz challenged Officer Beberman. He implied through questioning that Officer Beberman’s decision to charge Ms. Zuckerman with a terrorist threat showed bias in light of last month’s deadly shooting at the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland by a man who had a grudge with the paper and some of its staff.
Mr. Yankowitz told Judge McManus his client’s email wasn’t a threat. Instead, it was an attempt to warn reporters at the Walpole Times there are people that could do them harm.
“This is at the heart of what was in Amy Zuckerman’s mind,” Mr. Yankowitz said. “It was not a well thought out (email) warning, in her state.”
“She was concerned about something that just happened (in Annapolis, Maryland),” Mr. Yankowitz continued. “She was worried about a similar place. She was not a threat to do it herself. She was worried about (the staff at the Walpole Times).”