A Linden resident is headed to court to defend his right to criticize local government officials he disagrees with.
Former Linden Councilman Peter Brown has filed a criminal harassment case against John Kaczor, a local resident who posted memes lampooning Brown on social media.
Kaczor, a critic of Mayor Derek Armstead, claims the memes, as criticism of an elected official, constituted speech protected under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
“I’m not going to allow them to trample over people’s rights to be critical of their elected officials,” said Kaczor, a supporter of Linden Councilman John Francis Roman.
Brown did not seek re-election to his 3rd ward council seat last year and was succeeded by Councilwoman Monique Caldwell.
In a report filed with Linden Police Department, Brown claimed Kaczor’s posts were made with malicious intent.
“For the past several months, John Kaczor has actively and aggressively engaged in behaviors and has taken action against my elf, my friends and family to cause annoyance, harassment and hard,” Brown wrote. “Through in-person conversations, electronic communication and internet websites like Facebook and Instagram, Mr. Kaczor has made comment, published post, modified personal pictures and more for the purpose of gaining my attention and embarrassing me, my friends and family.”
He further claims Kaczor approached him after a council meeting in October and threatened to “kick my ass in front of Barry Javick,” Linden’s 2nd ward councilman.
The case has been moved to Cranford Municipal Court and will be heard on August 25.
Brown previously worked in the Dover Tax Assessor’s office. He resigned from the post on Dec. 31, 2019, citing “politically motivated cyber bullying, cyber stalking and cyber harassment.” In his resignation letter, dated Sept. 25, 2019, he claimed Roman and Linden Councilwoman Gretchen Hickey participated in that harassment.
In October, Brown contacted the New Jersey Globe to say reports that he worked within the Dover Tax Assessor’s office were untrue and threatened to sue if the references were not removed. Brown answered the phone when The Globe called the Tax Assessor’s office to confirm his employment status.
After the Globe reported that fact, he sent an email threatening criminal charges.
“Given now your Twitter post I will follow through with my police report of cyberharassment and cyberbullying,” Brown said.
Brown, along with Armstead and Linden Councilmen Ralph Strano and Alfred Mohammed, are defendants in a defamation suit filed by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Nicholas Scutari (D-Linden).