Court Upholds Conviction Of Man Threatening Mother-In-Law From Behind Bars
Mar. 25, 1985
BOSTON (AP) _ A prison inmate who wrote threatening letters to his mother-in-law can be convicted of making threats of bodily harm, even though he couldn't carry them out, the state Appeals Court ruled Monday.
The justices upheld the conviction of Gerald Ditsch, an inmate at the Norfolk County House of Correction in Dedham who received an additional six- month sentence for writing the letters to Selma Halpern of Stoughton.
''We do not think that the absence of immediate ability, physically and personally, to do bodily harm precludes a conviction for threats,'' the court said.
''A letter from a prisoner may give rise to justifiable apprehension on the part of the recipient that the threat will be carried out,'' the decision said.
Ms. Halpern filed a complaint May 4, 1983, against Ditsch, who was serving a 21/2 -year sentence for raping his 12-year-old daughter, Assistant Norfolk County District Attorney Charles J. Hely said Monday.
''For an extended period of time during 1982 and into 1983 she received a series of highly emotional letters threatening to kill or physically harm her,'' Hely wrote in a court brief.
Ditsch, 45, apparently felt his mother-in-law played a role in his conviction, court documents indicated. In one of the letters, he wrote: ''this is a warning (to) have fun while you can because when I get out somebody (is) going to pay.''
Defense attorney Martin Kruger argued that Ditsch lacked the means to carry out the threats.
But Judge Robert C. Campion found him guilty of having made threats of bodily harm and sentenced him to an additional six months in jail.
The appeals court upheld the decision.
''In this case we think the defendant's mother-in-law could reasonably have believed that the defendant actually had the ability to cause bodily harm, either personally after his release or through the employment of an agent,'' the justices said.