CONCORD – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed the conviction of David Ackell, 49, of Seekonk, Massachusetts, for using facilities in interstate commerce to stalk a female resident of New Hampshire, announced United States Attorney Scott W. Murray.
Ackell was found guilty of the offense after a four-day jury trial in December 2016. Ackell will now serve a 33-month federal prison sentence that was imposed in July of 2017. He will serve his sentence at a facility designated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
According to the evidence presented during the trial, Ackell sent an on-line private message to the victim when she was 16 years old. Thereafter, the victim agreed to send photographs of herself to Ackell because Ackell repeatedly promised that he would not save them. Several months later, Ackell persuaded the victim to send partially nude photographs of herself to him. After the victim turned 18, she repeatedly told Ackell that she wanted to end their relationship. Ackell prevented this from happening by, among other things, threatening to send the victim’s photographs to her family and friends. He also told the victim that if she ended their relationship, a 14-year-old girl would be raped.
In appealing his conviction, Ackell argued, among other things, that the federal stalking statute was a violation of the freedom of speech under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and that the evidence present by the government was insufficient. In a unanimous decision, the First Circuit Court of Appeal rejected these arguments. In rejecting the First Amendment claim, the Court wrote that the federal stalking statute "does not, on its face, regulate protected speech or conduct that is necessarily intertwined with speech or expression." Pertaining to the sufficiency of the evidence against Ackell, the Court remarked that "the evidence provided a substantial basis for a rational [jury] to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt" that Ackell stalked the victim in violation of federal law.
“I am grateful that the U.S. Court of Appeals has agreed that Ackell’s egregious conduct was a violation of federal law,” said U.S. Attorney Murray. “He will serve a well-deserved federal prison sentence. I hope that this result provides some comfort to the victim who was stalked by this defendant.”
"Mr. Ackell used the internet to exploit, threaten, and extort his victim, without remorse or accountability for his actions,” said Harold H. Shaw, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Boston Division. “We'd like to thank her for her bravery and courage in coming forward to report his criminal behavior, in the hopes that other children wouldn't be exploited in the same way. The protection of our children from depraved predators, who make online threats or exploit our most vulnerable, will continue to be a top priority for the FBI."
The Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Hancock, New Hampshire Police Department, and the Seekonk, Massachusetts Police Department investigated the case.
At trial, Assistant United States Attorneys Helen White Fitzgibbon and Robert Kinsella represented the government. Assistant United States Attorney Seth R. Aframe represented the government in the Court of Appeals.