ATTLEBORO — The case against a man accused of threatening a former Attleboro city councilor on a social media forum where a gun ordinance was being discussed was dismissed Monday.
Attleboro District Court Judge Edmund Mathers dismissed the case against Joseph Wildgoose, 56, of North Smithfield, after his lawyer, Daniel Rich of Norton, argued that police lacked probable cause to charge his client, according to court records.
In a brief interview with The Sun Chronicle after a court appearance in February, Wildgoose denied making any threats on Facebook to former councilor Roxanne Houghton.
The message called Houghton an “insane liberal” and made a reference to domestic assault charges against her in 2015. The charges were subsequently dismissed.
“YOU should be put down like a rabid animal,” the message said, according to the police report. “YOU are scum. Cat lady. And I will be with you every step of the way on the hunter issue.”
Houghton told police she feared for her safety.
But Rich argued in court papers that the comments did not fulfill the elements of the crime of uttering threats and were protected free speech.
“There clearly has to be intent by the defendant to injure the alleged victim and there is no intent expressed in the police report,” Rich said.
“The alleged victim may not like what is said and may have felt threatened, but without intent to carry out the crime there is no crime committed nor probable cause to issue the complaint,” Rich said.
Houghton and Wildgoose did not know each other.
Houghton said she was participating in a discussion about the hunting ordinance on the mayor’s Facebook page when she received the alleged threat in a private message.
The ordinance, which proposed that hunters seek written permission before going on private property and banned all hunting on city-owned property, was defeated in April.
The case was continued to Oct. 29 to allow the prosecution time to decide whether to appeal the judge’s ruling.