In July of 2023, William Maisano, a retired police officer who lives in Guilford, was arrested for breach of peace based on an email he sent to Guilford High School Principal Julia Chaffe.
Maisano’s email, which was sent on June 16, the day of Guilford’s high school graduation, warned that if Guilford high school physical education teacher Regina Sullivan dyed her hair rainbow in celebration of her LGBTQ identity, “there would be hell to pay.” Chaffe alerted the police who spoke with Maisano. Maisano insisted that he meant no physical threat and sent a second follow-up email to Chaffe indicating that by “hell to pay” he meant media exposure.
The graduation went off without a hitch and Sullivan dyed her hair as she had done in the past. Following graduation, however, Sullivan filed a complaint with Guilford police stating that she felt threatened.
While Maisano says his words “hell to pay” meant only media exposure, the media attention Maisano warned of came nearly a month later and it was not directed toward the school. Instead, following his arrest, it was directed at him.
It certainly wasn’t the first time Maisano had been in the news. As part of a Republican slate of candidates for the Guilford Board of Education (BOE) in 2021, Maisano and his running mates made statewide news over their opposition to critical race theory (CRT) and similar concepts they said were being taught in the Guilford school system.
The issue was part of a national trend in 2021, that continues to this day, of parents pushing back against boards of education over racial and gender identity issues allegedly being taught in classrooms and highlighted by national media coverage of BOE meetings in Loudon County, Virginia. Although Maisano and his running mates Danielle Scarpellino and Tim Chamberlain did not win election to the Guilford BOE, the controversies before the school board in Guilford and division did not end there.
Maisano and others have continued to speak out about the school curriculum in Guilford. The local chapter of No Left Turn had issued a stern warning to the BOE that “we are watching,” which caused Superintendent Paul Freeman to publicly condemn such comments. Maisano says that he had been a member of No Left Turn but left the group because he felt their tactics were too confrontational, but he did continue his own personal advocacy.
Now, of course, there are debates in school systems across Connecticut over what kind of books are offered by the school library, with a particular focus on LGBTQ books with sexually explicit writing and images, and even books that are considered part of the literary canon like The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, which contains a graphic sex scene.
During a March BOE meeting in Guilford, Maisano spoke – calmly and quietly – to the BOE about some of the books available in the library, offering the idea of letting parents sign up for notifications if their child checks out a particular book. The following day, Freeman sent out a notice about “book banning,” saying that two of the books that caused concern were new to the school library, while another one had been there for a long period of time without complaint.
“Which all seems to suggest that the outrage associated with these texts has been intentionally manufactured if not feigned, and appears not to be of strictly local origin. To date, no one has filed a formal complaint or request that the Board of Education review any title,” Freeman wrote. “It is important to note here that the nature of the discussion about these books on social media has been, to a large degree, of concern itself. For adults in this community to personally attack teachers within our system because of professional decisions they have made is unacceptable.”
Certainly, what is occurring in Guilford and other school systems in Connecticut can be seen in light of a broader, national picture, but Maisano and others are local to the town and clearly want to be heard. Maisano’s opposition to aspects of the school curriculum, teachings and public displays of LGBTQ pride in the school appears largely to have been presented in a cool, calm and collected manner – at least when speaking in front of the board. However, his choice of words in the June email to Chaffe were, he admits, unwise.
But there is a price to pay for activism, particularly when that activism is for causes that are largely unpopular. It’s not just a political price – he is clearly in the minority in Guilford based on the BOE race and Guilford’s voting record — but a social one, as well.
Maisano and others have filed a lawsuit against the town and BOE alleging that their children have been unfairly targeted for bullying by teachers and students in the school. They are backed by the nonprofit organization We The People, Inc., and represented by attorney Norm Pattis. That lawsuit is pending in federal court.
Meanwhile, the threatening has not just been on one side. Maisano’s attorney, David Cutillo, himself received a death threat via phone, warning him not to represent Maisano. Cutillo immediately alerted the police.
So, Connecticut Inside Investigator (CII) decided to sit down with Maisano as he heads to court to find out what motivates him to continue fighting when it seems all odds, and the majority of his community, are against him; to clarify what it is that he actually wants, and whether the price he pays for such activism is ultimately too high.
We’re presenting this in interview format. The interview with Maisano was well over an hour long and so this has been edited for brevity and clarity while still maintaining accurate quotes that address our questions.
Marc Fitch: Let’s start with the email that got you in trouble. What was going on there? Why did you use the words “Hell to pay,” and did you see this as a threat?
William Maisano: We have a parent chat group. It’s private and its conservative parents so it’s not that large, maybe 17 people. Last year Regina (Sullivan) dyed the pride flag in her hair. She’s the gym teacher, she’s the union representative for the teachers’ union, she’s a lesbian; but that’s not a secret, people have known that for years. I’ve known it for years. I like Regina, her family, very much. Her father, in fact, is a man I greatly admire. I grew up without a dad in my life since I was five. Her dad is the dad I wish I had. They’re good people. I don’t have any personal problem with Regina. I really do like her.
But people weren’t happy with her dying her hair. They’re not going to say anything usually. Unfortunately, that’s not the way I am, so I brought up the fact that it violates some school policies. I got a little heated, that’s my weakness. I don’t get angry. I think it’s frustration I feel a lot of times. The school had just gone through the end of the month where they had a pride celebration and I thought, when is it really enough? And is this necessary for graduation? And it’s a teacher. If it was a student, then absolutely fine. Students can do what they want and express themselves, but teachers are different, and they do have different standards. It could have been anything, like if she wore a Gadsden flag on the side of her head, that might be problematic because she’s a teacher. If a student did it, no not so much. So, I was basically asking to put it aside just for the day. Let’s enjoy the day. Let’s not bring gender, let’s not bring politics. I would say that the whole pride, trans movement is very political at this point. There’s no denying that. I mean it’s in legislatures all over the country, it’s a hot-button topic, and I was like, let’s give it a rest. Not permanently, let’s do it for graduation. So, I sent an email to Julia Chaffe, the principal. I never sent anything to Regina Sullivan. This was between myself and Julia and we’re not strangers to each other and we speak about different things, and I think she knows me pretty well.
MF: But it was the wording of the email. The words “Hell to pay.” What did you mean by that?
WM: I got that from my grandmother, she used to say that all the time. I actually clarified — it’s even in the article. By “hell to pay” I meant media exposure. I did tell Julia, I want to be really clear so there’s no misunderstanding about this, that I meant media exposure. There’s no question as to what I meant. I didn’t go to graduation. I didn’t go down with a bull horn and yell. I didn’t lay across the street and try to block the procession. I didn’t do anything to disrupt, and two days after graduation, Regina filed the complaint against me. And I had no idea this happened. No one from the police department contacted me, and then a few weeks later they surprised me and said we have a warrant, you need to turn yourself in. They locked me in a cage, they fingerprinted me, photographed me, they put me through the whole nine yards with it. It’s fine. Whatever they need to do, I’m not going to fight them, they’re doing their job. I was very disappointed to see this happen. I personally felt I was being singled out because I am one of the squeaky wheels in town and maybe — I’m speculating but wouldn’t be shocked — that its, “We’re going to send a message that if you oppose us, something like this can happen.” There’s a lot of people who agree with me, but they will never say anything because saying something could potentially get you arrested. That message was sent loud and clear. After I was arrested people definitely took notice and it’s kind of silenced people more, so it’s sad because you can’t have these conversations.
MF: Do you think it went too far with the arrest?
WM: I think it’s really extreme. I’m a retired police officer, I’ve written a thousand warrants. I couldn’t even find the probable cause in it because I never said anything to her (Sullivan). And it would have been really simple for Julia (Chaffe), who does know me well and has my phone number, to call and say, “Bill what exactly did you mean by that?” If she needed more than my email, I gladly would have told her and I would have gotten into the violations of policy and she could have said, “You have those, and here’s why we can’t do it,” and that would have been the end of it right there. But it just escalated. I’m the opposite of violent. I’m a non-violent person.
MF: You ran for Board of Education on the slate of doing away with critical race theory and these other divisive issues you said were being taught in schools. You lost. Shouldn’t that have been enough to tell you that the town in general preferred how the school curriculum was being handled?
WM: That’s how it was reported in the media, but no. There were a lot of things. I’m actually a certified teacher. I care deeply about education, especially special education, and that’s where I guess my expertise was. I wound up a cop for some reason, that’s how God works. But I had a lot of issues when I ran for Board of Ed. I wanted to focus on special education. I wanted to look at the curriculum. If you want to look at something, show me the data; if you want to change something, show me the data that this is going to make an improvement. You’re introducing things that were new concepts at the time that hadn’t been tried, and I believe that if you look now, you’re talking like three four years later, you don’t have any data to say this is making a difference, that things are getting better. I just don’t see it. And I do have my own ideas for it, like the Open Choice program. That’s tangible. If you want people to know and understand each other, this is the way to do it. Let the students interact with people and that’s how you get to know them. So, we weren’t these radical anti-CRT people. We weren’t that narrow sighted. The school encompasses so many things, too many things, I think. It’s a school, it’s got a focus and it has a really important place in our society, but I think they’re getting stretched with all these other things like race and gender identity and all that. Those are really important issues, really important.
If you have a child that has gender dysmorphia, that’s really serious. I said at a Board of Ed. meeting that I take this issue very seriously, and I’m not sure that you do. I think you’re looking for a quick fix that feels good. You have to project and look down the road a bit. This is a real serious issue; this is something that needs a real professional. So, do you have people in the school that are trained at the level to be able to deal with these issues? Do you believe that throwing them a book, for example, is going to help? It’s a book; there’s no guidance, it’s just a book from somebody’s perspective and I just don’t see that as really making a difference. If you want to do something and you’re committed, then you really have to dedicate yourself to doing it and that’s really been my issue all along with the school. If you want to address race, Open Choice is great. Bring kids in who are from a different part of the community who can share their perspectives. Reading about something just doesn’t do it. It’s easy. It’s just such an easy way and it’s ineffective. When you meet a person, you get the whole person, you get their life story. When you get a book, you’re getting one person’s perspective, their biases.
MF: Do you feel that the media was singularly focused on the anti-CRT messaging of your campaign?
WM: No doubt about it. Was that a focus? Yes, but in examining it. It wasn’t about ridding the school of something but asking, is there a better way of doing it? You really have to take the time to look at these things you propose and look at the advantages and disadvantages. You have to look at it a year from now and ask, what are our goals? What do we hope to achieve? I still don’t know what those goals are. You also have to bear in mind that these are children, you could say young adults, maybe even 18, but they have no real-life experience. They get a lot of things put on them. The race issue in this country. I go back five years; it was something we hadn’t really thought about. Now, for better or worse, I think there’s some good and some bad too. I think that you really have to examine it and come up with the best answer. But not burdening these kids with all this stuff, focusing on race and oppression with these children who are really powerless to do anything about it. Also with the climate agenda, you have Sen. John Kerry saying we only have five years. There’s a lack of opposing viewpoints. You want critical thinking but you only give one perspective. Now, I’ve read Ibram X. Kendi’s book. There are things in it that are okay, but there are other things that are just… really when you look at them, they’re attacks on capitalism. He gets way off on things and there’s no real solution. It’s just dividing oppressed and oppressors, and these are kids are not oppressors. And oppressed? I don’t really see that, either. My view is this: we’re devout Christians and I raise my children to look at people and take them one at time — no skin color, no religion, no sexual orientation. We love everybody equally. So, when you have a minority student you treat him exactly the same way you want to be treated. It’s basically the Golden Rule, but don’t treat him like a victim. If I go to somebody and I say, “I pity you,” that’s like giving one of the biggest insults you can give. That you can’t make it unless I help you make it. I think a lot of minorities actually resent that, and that’s kind of the agenda the Guilford schools are pushing on kids. It doesn’t work for me. I don’t want my kids to view other children as victims of something. Love them and support them. Now when it comes to LGBTQ, same thing applies. Love them and support them because they don’t deserve anything less. Now, as Christians, we cannot endorse it or celebrate it because that is not part of what being a Christian is…
MF: And when you way “we” you mean you and your family…
WM: I mean me and my family
MF: But the rest of the community…
WM: The rest of the community can do what they do. But what happens in the background is you have a lot of people who do agree with me. There’s a lot, but they will never say anything because saying something could potentially get you arrested. That message was sent loud and clear. After I was arrested people definitely took notice and it’s kind of silenced people. It’s sad because you can’t have these conversations.
MF: Was there anything specific that started you down this road? Because we’ve seen this throughout the country, it’s not a Connecticut thing. Virginia is probably the biggest example of parents having issues with the school board and it becomes a flash point. But was there something that made up your mind?
WM: It was what I started to see come back as school assignments. Sexual education, that’s okay, but I mean the way I had it, the basics. You learn about anatomy; you learn about safety, things like that. But my son was writing a paper on sodomy, and I thought as a devout Christian that’s not the road we go down. If people do that, that’s okay, but what you’ve done now is you’ve taken something that maybe the school believes in but not everybody is on board with that. That’s not something they want their children to learn about or write a paper about. And did call Paul Freeman and said I’m very concerned and as Christians we don’t believe that sodomy is something you should be doing. And for our son to be writing a paper about it without our knowledge. You might think you’d give me a heads up on it. And he was like okay, but dismissive, like there’s nothing we can really do. And then I started seeing more papers, and I thought this has gone beyond just sex ed. I’m seeing it everywhere. It started showing up in some of the civics assignments talking about genocide that was historically inaccurate. And I would go to the school, and I would meet with the assistant principal, and I had a conversation with the teacher about it.
MF: But what really pushed you into doing all this? Into your outspokenness on these issues? Some people may feel the same way, but don’t go to the lengths that you have and are certainly less public about it.
WM: This goes back years, but I was thinking about a lot of things that were happening in the school. I really do pay attention. I care deeply about my children learning and being well educated. I fill in a lot of gaps, to be honest, as far as language arts and history. There are a lot of gaps there, and I don’t blame the teachers. I think they’re stretched too thin, there’s too much going on that’s outside of what they’d — I believe — would like to focus on. That being said, there were a lot of things that went against my moral compass. I actually got on my knees, and I prayed, and I said, “God, whatever it is you want me to do let me know and I will do it, no matter what it is. I’ll give myself to you and if you lead me, I will follow, no matter what that means for me.” And God does answer prayers. When you do that, you have to go in realizing that it’s not about me, this is more important than me. I do this because I believe it’s what’s right. They can do whatever they want to me. I don’t mind because I know that I’m doing what God is asking me to do and I can’t turn away from that. Now, my family knows that’s how I feel but they do suffer a lot. I take it because I asked for it; they didn’t. But we love each other, and we support each other, and I thank God every day for them. I would do anything for them, and they know that, and they know that the only reason I do what I do is because I love them so much. I don’t want my son to see me as the dad who, just for the sake of having peace and comfort, just went along with things I don’t believe in and don’t think are in his best interest. I want him to see that courage is important and that if you’re right, God is always by your side and in the end things will be okay. And I tell my family that — that things will be okay.
MF: Do you not feel that the values you instill in your kids at home are more influential than what they are taught at school? Are children more swayed by their learning environment or their home environment?
WM: That is a really good question. It is effective to some degree; I do correct things. My opinion on it is that this is something I shouldn’t have to do. We do instill our values in our children the best we can, but I shouldn’t send them to a school where they’re undoing that work and then they come home, and I have to repair the damage again. That’s not something a parent should have to worry about. We should be sending them to school to learn and be happy and not worrying about these social issues that are coming up. It’s a lot of work to do. Everything that comes up, it’s daily. It’s difficult when you’re a kid in that classroom and being bombarded with it and having to sit in silence. It’s just not a good atmosphere. You can’t disagree with any perspective that’s brought up, because if you disagree, you’ll be attacked, and we know that from experience.
MF: Is there social price you pay for your stance on these issues?
WM: There’s definitely a price to pay. Socially, we’re pariahs, really. And I can’t get into our lawsuit, but so much of it is about our children and it really breaks my heart. I want to weep when I read through the things that have happened. It’s just so tragic. My son’s best friend was African American, I mean that literally — he is from Africa, he’s adopted. They were good friends. We took them to movies, out to dinner, loved him like a son, and when I ran for the board of ed, we’ve never spoken to him again. It’s so sad. I went to the Big Y and a woman I don’t even know — she was elderly — but she called me a book burning Nazi. I was like where did she get this? And then I saw Paul Freeman’s notice about book banning. And I’m the guy who said I don’t support book banning in any form and, by the way, if these trans kids really need help, let’s do it right. That’s all I said. And then this came out. I’m kind of used to it now. But again, what are my options?
MF: Why don’t you leave? I know it’s easier said than done, but it is an option.
WM: There’s a lot reasons. Another thing that comes up is private school. Why don’t you pull your kids out of school? There’s two points on that. I can’t afford to; that’s a fact. It’s very expensive. I cannot afford it. The second factor in that is that if I do that, I’m taking care of me, I’m putting myself first. I don’t believe that’s what people should do. I’m not front and center. It’s something that I need to do, not just for me, but because I believe it’s what’s right and that’s why I keep on doing it and why I don’t leave and why I don’t quit. Because it’s not about me anymore. If it were about me, I wouldn’t be doing this.
MF: You say that it’s not about you, but has it become personal on some level for you? Your issues with the BOE? With Paul Freeman?
WM: You know, not on my side. I can’t find it in myself to be angry or hateful because that needs fuel and that fuel would come from me and it would burn me up. So, I don’t do that. I disagree with him. I get disappointed. Do I get angry? Yeah, I do because I’m a work in progress, and I’m really working on trying not to. I wish Paul Freeman’s family well. I’m not vindictive. I don’t want to see anything bad happen to him. But he’s here, he’s not going to go anywhere, I think. He just got an extension and everything. And even if he did leave, I don’t know what we would get after that. It might not be anything different. But I’m hoping that doing what I’m doing will give other people a little bit of courage to speak out. If enough people speak out maybe we could get a place at the table, and I think that would make such a difference in Guilford — having a place at the table, a voice, not where you’re shut out. The BOE made sure there is not one Republican on the board, not one dissenting voice. What they did was legal, but just because it’s legal doesn’t mean you should do it. To me that’s unhealthy. When you have this monolithic board that has this hive mind mentality, I don’t think that’s good. I think having different points of view might make you think a little bit and maybe make some adjustments. There wouldn’t ever be enough of us on that board — even we got three, we would still be outvoted on everything — but at least we would have a voice. And we wouldn’t feel shut out and wouldn’t feel nobody cares and that’s exactly how a third of this town feels right now.
MF: Is this a political thing that you’re doing?
WM: This is going to surprise you. I don’t like the Democrat Party and I don’t like the Republican Party anymore.
MF: You ran as a Republican, what changed?
WM: I was a Democrat. I was a registered Democrat until the board of ed thing came up and that switched me. I thought, jeez these people, it’s like a religion for them, they are really into this and there’s no movement here. So, I switched my affiliation to Republican, ran as a Republican. There was really no other option. But I’ve become more disillusioned as the years went on with both. I’ve seen more of both sides and honestly there’s not much to like. I think there’s some good people there, but overall, the whole party system is really divisive. I know people that if you put a blind dog with a D next to him, they’re going to vote for that dog. They don’t care. I can put Jesus with an R and they’re not going to vote for him because there’s an R. And that’s really sad. I voted for [Guilford First Selectman] Matt Hooey. I grew up across the street from him. He was very good to my mother. She died of cancer, and he was really good. He’s another man I like very much and admired and since Paul Freeman has come to town, Matt and I have grown apart, and that bothers me. I still like Matt. I’ve said things to him that I wish I didn’t say because I was so disappointed. He seemed like he wasn’t quite the person I thought he was, and I do regret that, but it’s both parties. I think politics, when you really get deep in the boxes, it changes people and never for the better. They always seem to come out worse.
MF: As far as the issues you care about, however, it appears that the Republican Party is probably more aligned with your point of view. Politics are always divisive, but what do you find lacking from that side of the aisle?
WM: Are there more Republicans who agree with me? Yes, but a lot of them I see really lack the courage to be outspoken. There are some, and there are some Democrats, too, who I think don’t like what they see. I do know there’s a lot of minorities who absolutely agree with me. They don’t want to be portrayed as the victim. I’ll just say it, they are not looking for the liberal, white, suburban, affluent person to be their savior. That’s insulting to them, and I would be insulted as well. They don’t need that. They are just as capable as any one of us and that is what should be taught. Look at the good in the people. Look at the potential in people. Look at them as not being different, not as oppressed, and that’s how you’re going to make a difference in this country. It can become really ingrained in a person if you tell them they’re a victim. They’ll latch on to that and that can become very harmful to them as they grow into adulthood, and they’re looking to be a victim and looking to be triggered or angry or disrespected or whatever it might be. That’s not what life is about. You’re going to be angry your whole life. You’re not going to reach your full potential. If people treat you badly, you overcome it. You see those people for what they are — the angry, unkind, hateful people — and you put them out of your life, and you go ahead and align yourself with the people who are going to build you up. And they’re out there. There’s more good than bad out there, easily.
MF: The things that concern you in the schools — these are national conversations and debates – but is this just part of society progressing through changes? With change comes turbulence, but the whole world is clearly changing and maybe some people are trying to hold on to something they can’t hold onto. Is that you?
WM: No. Do I think the world has changed? Yes. The world has changed. Who brought the change about? Who’s doing this, really? There’s a lot of people you don’t hear about because you hear the news and you hear about those in power and, yes, they’re bringing about change, but the pendulum seems to swing a lot. If I’m the last man standing, then I’m willing to be the last man standing. I won’t compromise. I will do it until I can’t do it anymore because that’s what I need to do no matter what the cost is to me. I’m okay with it. I’m at peace. I’ve never been more at peace in my life. And that comes from God.
MF: It doesn’t appear that you’re the last man standing, but I can understand it may feel that way.
WM: Yeah, and it’s okay. I am totally at peace, and this arrest — I’m not happy with it of course. I was disappointed. I was surprised. But I’m not going to let it stop me from what I’m doing. I’m not going to lash out. I’m just going to keep moving forward with what I believe is right for my children, to be an example, and to be there for other people, too, if they have a question. I’m always there. Everybody in town knows that. They can come talk to me. I will go in with parents when they are afraid to talk about a subject just to be there. I’ll be that person. If I make a little bit of difference, I’m okay. I know I’m not going to change the world, but if I can make just a little difference for one other family, give them a little hope, a little confidence, that’s okay, I’ll do it.
MF: What do you think when you see videos from other parts of the country, or even in Connecticut, when you have parents at the school board meeting screaming? The anger? There are legitimate threats at times, we’ve seen that happen. What are your thoughts? Because you get lumped in there with them. People see the headline, man arrested for threatening teacher, and they say, Oh, he’s one of them.
WM: Oh, I absolutely do get lumped in with them. The headline — Arrested After Warning Teacher of Hell to Pay — that’s the headline on it, and a lot of people read the headline and they think, “Oh my god, he threatened a teacher?” I never threatened a teacher nor would I ever. I didn’t threaten anybody.
MF: But when you see those videos of anger, of other parents across the country, how do you take that?
WM: I’ve learned, I’ve looked at that and I thought, is that effective? It’ll get clicks because people are watching. They say, “Wow, that guy is fired up, look at him.” But did he make a difference? I don’t think so. I think they look and people who don’t agree with him say, “There they go, there’s the anger, there’s the hate, there’s the threatening demeanor coming through.” So, no, I don’t think that’s effective. I think they do hear what I say. They may choose to ignore it, but I always go in with my documents. I’ll research something thoroughly, and I think that’s more effective. I think the best thing you can do is keep giving them information, and my goal is to try to get a few people a seat at the table. Maybe not even on the board, but people who are welcome to come in and meet with the board and discuss the concerns of about one third who feel they’re not heard. That would be a really simple, good start. They have the power to ignore anything we say, but at least we’ll have the ability to really say it and not be held to a three-minute sound bite at a BOE meeting where we don’t get a response, ever.
MF: Are you going to keep going down this path?
WM: Yeah, I feel I have to. I’m not going to admit guilt to something I didn’t do. If I did it — it’s like what I tell my kids — if you do something, own up to it. Now, do I own what I said to Julia Chaffe? Absolutely I do. Should I have worded it differently? Yeah, in hindsight, I should have. But at the time I did it I was frustrated, and I really didn’t see that as threatening anybody, especially when I clarified and said I just meant media exposure. I don’t mean that anything is really going to happen. So yeah, I’m going to see it through. There are First Amendment concerns in there, as well. If I can’t say something, if I can’t reach out to a principal to voice my concern and clarify exactly what I mean, I don’t know where we really are as a society. And I think it’s important for me to do it as well.
In October, Maisano had his first day in court on breach of peace charges for the email he sent in June. Although he was offered a plea deal for no jail time and accelerated rehabilitation, he rejected the offer. Likewise, Maisano says he will reject any deal offered at his next, upcoming court case on November 7, despite the fact the plea deal would essentially end the whole ordeal. Instead, Maisano says he is taking the matter to trial.
In 2023, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a 7-2 ruling that overturned a Colorado man’s arrest and conviction on charges of stalking because they determined the state must demonstrate that a defendant understood that his words constituted a “true threat,” which is not protected under the First Amendment, rather than just “recklessness.” The Supreme Court Justices expressed concern that such state actions could have the effect of chilling free speech, and Maisano believes his case has First Amendment implications, which is why he says he will not accept a plea bargain.
“Despite the fact that I could be done with it, if I accepted the deal, I won’t just on the principle of it,” Maisano said during a follow-up phone call. “I really don’t have any alternative.”