Today our story was featured as front-page news on the Boston Globe. You can also read the article here.
I reached out to the Globe back in May to do a piece on this for many reasons, but the primary one was this- the carriers and management of the Arlington MA USPS have continued to antagonize us in one way or another for nearly three years, while at the same time doing many things to prevent us from speaking out about their abuses.
That ends today.
Maria Cramer, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, did an excellent job capturing the essence of our story and how totally bizarre this is. She’s bound by journalistic ethics to provide a balanced account, which means that she gave the claims of the USPS an equal consideration to our own. I wouldn’t expect anything less, and I’m happy that the Boston community will be made aware that this happened and be given an opportunity to consider both sides and make their own judgement. Besides, since the USPS denied Heather the ability to seek remedy in both State and Federal court, and haven’t even acknowledged that we submitted a claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act months ago, I figured that I would bring the courtroom to their doorstep and allow the public (you, the reader) to decide.
Readers of this post may be interested to hear our perspective of some of the details of Maria’s article, which I’ll provide in some detail.
Nature of the USPS’ allegations
The source material that Maria cited was from the Astaneh v. U.S. Postal Service Federal case. This case was originally in the form of a harassment prevention order filed by my wife against carrier Alan Hodgkins for harassing and stalking behavior. As Hodgkins was performing these acts while in the execution of the role of a Federal employee, it was removed to Federal court.
The defense originally meant to directly contest our claim and provided depositions by the carriers themselves, as well as statements from residents of our neighborhood. It must be noted that the USPS’ tactics changed to a motion to dismiss citing that a) Hodgkins is immune from suit due to sovereign immunity, and b) we did not exhaust our claim by going through the Federal Tort Claims Act. Saris did dismiss the case without prejudice, basically advising us to undergo the FTCA process.
Therefore, their allegations have not actually been tested in a legal proceeding.
That said, the USPS’ original defense was, in essence, a popularity contest (bandwagon logical fallacy). By appealing to residents of our neighborhood to attest to their amicable relationship with Hodgkins, they tried to divert attention from the acts that we allege that Hodgkins did to us. We in contrast were prepared with photo and video evidence, acknowledging that the burden of proof was on us and therefore strove to operate in the world of facts. We were never given the opportunity to show our evidence in a courtroom proceeding.
In addition, while Heather and I openly admit that we did in fact yell at Hodgkins from our rear porch out of frustration of his actions in early 2017, that again has nothing to do with the actions he engaged in from February 24th 2017 onward (after meeting with Boston Postmaster Nicholas Francescucci) that prompted the HPO. They used those events (the result of this experience going on for a year and a half and only getting worse) and the acts of us attempting to document what they are doing via video recording, to try to distort the narrative and muddy the waters of anyone who would make a judgement on the conflict, like Judge Saris. That was especially so when Hodgkins accused Heather of calling him a ‘fag’, to try to bring Heather into the mud with him and have them be considered on equal footing and fault. I believe that was in response to Sharon Demirdjian yelling ‘dyke’ at Heather in August 2016, which we have on camera.
A final note that I will state is that between August 2017 and January 2018, while the case was pending, Hodgkins continued his behavior by following/watching Heather in our neighborhood in his mail truck and even recruited a neighbor to photograph Heather on his behalf, all of which was captured on dashcam. After the case was dismissed, with his new-found immunity, he was emboldened to retaliate by intensifying his harassment and attempting to seek an HPO of his own without any impediment by the Federal Government, which was immediately dismissed as his claims were totally baseless (and again, contradicted by photo and video evidence which is available on this website). Shortly afterward, we even got harassing content over the mail, postmarked within a day of the hearing.
Therefore, they used the fact that they emotionally provoked us as a weapon to discredit our position, despite what the content on this website suggests. I find it difficult to imagine people in general undergoing our experience and maintaining their cool throughout. I personally feel that over the past three years, we’ve been extremely patient and restrained given the circumstances, and sought remedy through the byzantine legal channels guided by our counsel Lauren Thomas.
Nature of our allegations
Everything that Maria cited relating to our claims I documented on this website. The content was originally a repository of evidence that I prepared in the event that we went to court, but as we were denied that opportunity, Heather and I decided to go public.
The About Page is the summary of all the things that happened in the 3 year span of time, but I will discuss some of the things that Maria touched upon.
Again, as the burden of proof is on us, we depend of video and photo documentation to substantiate what we are saying. I built a home surveillance system and toolkit using three off-the shelf IP cameras, a server that runs the Motion video recording system and stores the footage, and some home-grown software I wrote to make it easier for me to review footage and publish evidence to YouTube. With it I was able to demonstrate that Hodgkins appeared within view of our home 142 times over a period of 54 days, which is vastly more in frequency and distribution than when other carriers were delivering while the HPO was in force. I seriously doubt all those appearances were work-related, especially when compared to when he wasn’t around.
In addition, we managed to capture really suspicious behavior, like him appearing behind our house after dark in his LLV with his lights off, appearing to take flash photography:
Or make eye contact with Heather while she brushes her hair upstairs in her office:
In addition, I installed dashcams in my car over time, starting with the front, then back, then each side, to help show how Hodgkins was stalking Heather from his LLV, like him waiting for her to pass on the way to picking me up from a bus stop:
And then follow her:
Or park in odd places so that he can watch her pass by (this was in the rear-view camera)
From our perspective, the difference between the USPS claims and our own is simply this:
We have evidence. They do not.
From our perspective, USPS carriers (and management, via service stoppage and USPIS police action) have deliberately tried to make our home and neighborhood an inhospitable one and even moved to force us from our home (if you consider the HPO that Hodgkins attempted to file.)
They have abused their status as Federal employees and the very nature of the job of a postal carrier to do these things.
The sad thing is that this has happened to others before.
In these cases, including ours, the USPS has turned the other way and shown little desire to take responsibility for this or make any form of changes to prevent this from happening again. Who knows what else is happening to other families at the hands of carriers that haven’t been able to come forward or put up a fight as much as we have.
We wish to be the last to deal with something like this.
We will continue to defend our rights to live where we are in peace and defend ourselves from abuses of authority and power. We’re not going anywhere.
Ultimately you, the reader, have to weigh both sides and make a decision yourself. Regardless of where your opinion lies, I hope that you now have awareness of one thing: postal carriers are Federal employees, which grants them many protections, including sovereign immunity. If a carrier decided to abuse that immunity to hurt you or your family, with the current law, there’s little you can do to stop them.