Four New Hampshire men were indicted Thursday in Massachusetts in connection with a campaign of harassment and intimidation last year against two New Hampshire Public Radio journalists, one of whom lives in Melrose, federal prosecutors said.
One of the men, Eric Labarge, 46, of Nashua, N.H., was arrested Friday morning and made an initial appearance in US District Court in Boston, where he was ordered held until a detention hearing on Wednesday, federal prosecutors and court papers said. His lawyer couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
The other three men were arrested in June by criminal complaint and remain in custody, Acting US Attorney Joshua S. Levy’s office said in a statement.
They were identified as Tucker Cockerline, 32, of Salem, N.H.; Michael Waselchuck, 35, of Seabrook, N.H., and Keenan Saniatan, 36, of Nashua, N.H.
Their lawyers either declined comment or didn’t immediately return emails seeking comment Friday morning.
The case involves NHPR’s reporting on allegations of sexual misconduct against Eric Spofford, founder and former owner of Granite Recovery Centers, a network of addiction rehabilitation centers in New Hampshire. Spofford has denied the allegations and has not been charged with any crimes related to NHPR’s reporting or the alleged harassment campaign.
Federal prosecutors said the campaign was set into motion after NHPR published an account of the misconduct allegations against Spofford in March 2022.
In response to the reporting, Labarge and the other three men “allegedly agreed” to harass and intimidate two NHPR journalists, including Melrose resident Lauren Chooljian, and their immediate family members, prosecutors said. Prosecutors alleged that Labarge is a “close personal associate” of Spofford.
On April 22, 2022, Labarge allegedly “solicited Cockerline” to vandalize one journalist’s former residence in Hanover, N.H. with a brick and red spray paint, prosecutors said.
Two nights later, Cockerline allegedly spray-painted a vulgar term related to female anatomy in large red letters on the front door of the home and tossed a brick through a window.
Also on April 22, Saniatan allegedly agreed to vandalize a second journalist’s home in Concord, N.H., as well as the first journalist’s parents’ home in Hampstead, N.H., again with bricks and red paint. He allegedly vandalized both residences two nights later by tossing bricks, shattering one window, and spraying the same vulgar term onto the houses, prosecutors said.
Then on May 18, 2022, Labarge allegedly solicited Cockerline to vandalize a reporter’s home in Melrose and again target her parents’ home in Hampstead, N.H., according to prosecutors. Cockerline then “allegedly recruited Waselchuck” to target the Melrose residence.
Two nights later, Cockerline allegedly spray-painted the same vulgar term on the garage door of the Hampstead residence and left a brick on the ground near the front door, prosecutors said.
Several hours later, Waselchuck allegedly threw a brick through a window of the Melrose home and left a warning, “JUST THE BEGINNING,” in large red letters on the front of the residence, prosecutors said.
Though prosecutors didn’t identify the NHPR reporters, Chooljian earlier this year released a podcast called “The 13th Step” about the reporting that sparked the alleged harassment against her and her boss, NHPR news director Dan Barrick.
“Once the vandalism happened, there was the initial shock and horror,” Chooljian told the Globe in June. “But then there’s this kind of like, ‘Oh, this isn’t just an attack on me, this is an attack on the First Amendment.’”
Material from prior Globe stories was used in this report. This breaking news story will be updated when more information is released.
Travis Andersen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.