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  • Corey Murray

Local political activists charged with rare cyber-bullying crimes

Corey Murray, Hillsdale Daily News

Published: 12/22/2022

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HILLSDALE — Two Hillsdale County political activists have been arrested on criminal allegations of cyber-bullying.

Kelley Lynn Mapes, 52, of Allen, and Joseph Robert Hendee, 50, of Hillsdale, were arraigned in mid-December in 2B District Court on identical charges of unlawful posting of messages for information published to a social media page about Donna Letcher, the alleged victim in the case.

Screenshots of the social media posts made available in a police report provided to the News through a Freedom of Information Act request show that Letcher’s address was posted “to prove that she was a neighbor of Commissioner Mark Wiley” after Letcher authored a letter released on social media about Mapes, who ran against Wiley during the August primary election.

Letcher, in her statement to police, said she requested information from Mapes’ former employer through a FOIA request prior to the election to clarify rumors regarding Mapes’ actions as an employee of the Branch-Hillsdale-St. Joseph Community Health Agency.

Letcher then authored a letter regarding Mapes’ employment and how it ended, which was eventually shared to social media.

Shortly after Letcher’s letter was shared, Mapes and Hendee, who publicly supported Mapes' campaign against Wiley, began posting various tidbits of information about Letcher including her voter information and other information found online. Letcher went on to allege that directions to her home were posted and that she lived alone, causing her to fear for her safety.

“I feel Kelley and Joseph equally stated false information about me to get some of their followers to take action against me in whatever way they felt necessary,” Letcher stated. “Again, I do realize my information can be obtained in one way or another, however, to publicly address all of my personal information for people to see and act upon is unfair and considered doxing.” The term "doxing" is used to describe when someone publicly identifies or publishes private information about someone especially as a form of punishment or revenge.

Daren Wiseley, the former embattled "America First" Hillsdale County Republican chairman, is the attorney representing Hendee. He called the criminal case “the most ridiculous criminal prosecution I have ever seen” in a statement sent to the News.

“The idea that Mr. Hendee’s Facebook activity somehow rose to the level of criminal is laughably absurd,” Wiseley stated. “He has not harassed anyone and unequivocally committed no criminal wrongdoing.”

Wiseley added that political speech is protected under the First Amendment.

“What is apparent is that Mr. Hendee is being charged in a blatant attempt to silence his opinions, disregarding the rule of law — an utter abomination to the Bill of Rights,” Wiseley stated. “The fact that Mr. Hendee is facing a felony charge for sharing these types of political views online would have Joseph Stalin blushing.”

Hillsdale County Prosecutor Neal Brady also released a statement to the News in a text message Dec. 19. “I have a widow who lives alone in the country and has lived in fear because of responses from unknown people acting on posts by them,” Brady stated. “They have no idea of how they hurt people with their keyboards.”

When asked about the perception of the arrest being politically motivated, Brady said “this is not about politics.”

Mapes appeared for a probable cause conference Dec. 19, according to the 2B District Court, and Hendee is scheduled for the hearing at 10 a.m. Dec. 28. The conference allows for their attorneys to meet with the prosecutor’s office to discuss discovery in the case and any possible resolution by plea bargain.

Preliminary examination hearings will then be scheduled for some time in January if a plea deal is not reached. At the examination hearing, the prosecutor’s office bears the burden of establishing probable cause that a crime was committed and that Mapes and Hendee are responsible for the crimes for which they have been charged.

If both elements are met, the cases will then be bound to the Hillsdale County Circuit Court for further hearings.

Hendee and Mapes face up to two years imprisonment if convicted as charged and/or a fine of $5,000.

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