Buhl's sentencing delayed in harassment case
Updated 4:00 pm, Monday, March 25, 2013
Connecticut Superior Court Judge William Wenzel granted Teri Buhl a delay in sentencing after the finding her guilty on misdemeanor charges of harassment and breach of peace Friday in Norwalk Superior Court.
The New Canaan woman was accused of harassing her then-boyfriend's daughter by posting parts of the girl's private journals online in 2010.
Teri Buhl, 40, who was acquitted of interfering with a police investigation, remains free in the meantime, as she posted the $10,000 bail.
One of Buhl's attorneys, Stephan Seeger, asked Judge Wenzel for the extra time in order to prepare some post-verdict motions, which he said would attack the verdict prior to appeal, citing issues of the admissibility of evidence and "several irregularities." He would not explain further.
Judge Wenzel allowed the delay, saying he would prefer to "err on the side of caution."
Sentencing arguments will now take place on Thursday, April 4, at 2 p.m. with sentencing immediately following, if appropriate. Buhl could face a maximum of nine months in prison and a $1,500 fine.
Teri Buhl's trial
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Buhl was charged in November 2010 after New Canaan police determined she posted parts of a then-17-year-old's personal journal detailing underage drinking and sexual activity at a party on Facebook. Buhl plans on appealing the verdict, Frank DiScala, her attorney said.
According to the prosecution's argument, on the day of New Canaan High School's graduation, Buhl created a Facebook account under the alias "Tasha Moore" onto which she posted photographs of diary entries of the then New Canaan High School senior's diary. Buhl was dating the girl's father at the time. The diary entries had been stuffed in the back of the girl's bedside drawer.
The prosecuting attorney, Donna Kursinski, attempted to show that the IP address attached to the Facebook posts was the same as Buhl's IP address, but the defense noted that there was no documentation from Facebook submitted for the record. Judge William Wenzel made the point that since Buhl was the only one known to have had possession of the diary entries, and since all of the NCHS seniors were at graduation during the time the posts in question were made, that could be seen as evidence enough of her culpability.
The defense attempted to make an argument that Buhl's relationship with the girl and the girl's father was a good one, and therefore she had no motive to post the embarrassing diary entries, citing the statute's language of intent to harass or annoy.
During a court recess, Buhl said she was using the diary entries, which she claimed had been given to her by one of the girl's peers, was using the materials for an investigative piece on adult-sponsored teen drinking parties in New Canaan, which she said she still plans on publishing.
The prosecution made the argument that the actions could have no other intent than to harass and annoy, so if Buhl committed the actions, that's what she must have wanted.
The judge did not find Buhl guilty of the most severe charge, of interfering with a police investigation, which is a misdemeanor A. The breach of peace charge is a misdemeanor B and the harassment charge is a misdemeanor C.
The prosecution's argument, that Buhl's only statement to the police, "I am Teri Buhl, not Tasha Moore," constituted a misleading statement that caused the police months and months of investigative work.
The judge made the point that Buhl had the right not to speak and did so at her own peril, but also noted that she is not, in fact, Tasha Moore, and asked if she had been asked if she posted under the pseudonym Tasha Moore. Indeed, she had not been asked that. He ruled that she was not guilty on that charge.
Buhl's attorney said he was hoping for a better outcome.
"[The judge] got her on two of the three, which was a surprise," DiScala said. "He was a careful judge."
The family declined to comment after the trial, but the prosecutor, Kursinski, said she was happy with the result.
"I thought it was a fair verdict," she said. "In this day and age of social media, people can't hide behind it to harass families."
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