A Manchester woman was acquitted of harassment charges in Carroll County Circuit Court yesterday when the judge decided that an argument on a Westminster street in February didn't meet the criminal standard for the charge.
Nevertheless, Judge Raymond E. Beck told Connie Blackwell, 26, that her behavior on Feb. 5 could have been considered an assault and that the incident could be used to establish a pattern of behavior if something similar happens again.
"This is a mean, ugly little case," said Judge Beck, adding that he thought Ms. Blackwell had stopped on Union Street and screamed threats and obscenities at Michelle Waltz last winter.
Witnesses testified that the two women had been friends since their teens and had lived together on two occasions but had become estranged over boarding disagreements and jealousies over boyfriends.
That animosity was clear in court yesterday, Judge Beck said, while admonishing both sides for their behavior in the courtroom.
"I saw the eyes flashing and the little lightning flashes," he said, noting that Ms. Blackwell's friends had disrupted court earlier in the morning by laughing and talking.
A supporter of Ms. Waltz was asked to leave the courtroom when Judge Beck suspected that she was indicating to a witness how he should answer certain questions.
"I don't know about the [bad blood between the parties], but it needs to stop," Judge Beck said when he acquitted Ms. Blackwell.
The judge said he couldn't find repeated offenses that would, under the law, constitute harassment.
"But that is not a license to continue this behavior," he said. "I want it on the record that this is strike one if there is further harassment."
Originally, Ms. Waltz charged that she was intimidated by Ms. Blackwell after testifying for Ms. Blackwell's boyfriend, David Lee Gist, in an earlier case.
In addition, Ms. Waltz said, Ms. Blackwell became jealous when Ms. Waltz and Mr. Gist began corresponding while he was in jail and when they began living together earlier this year.
Prosecutors said they dropped those charges yesterday when Ms. Waltz's testimony did not seem to support them.
Ms. Waltz also alleged that Ms. Blackwell repeatedly drove by Ms. Waltz's Union Street apartment after 11 p.m. and screamed obscenities out the car window before "squealing wheels" and driving away.
Judge Beck ruled that there was not enough evidence presented to support those charges.
"I think the judge's decision was very fair and reasoned," said assistant public defender Joy Phillips, who represented Ms. Blackwell.