An elementary school guidance counselor and her husband are suing a National Security Agency employee who admitted to sending letters that falsely accused the husband of sexually abusing their daughter.
Hollifield Station Elementary guidance counselor Susan Castelbaum and her husband, Jed, filed a lawsuit against Robert Hunter Johnson last week, alleging that his "extreme and outrageous" actions defamed them and caused them emotional "stress."
Johnson, 44, of Ellicott City was charged criminally as a result of the correspondence, which also targeted Hollifield Station Principal Glenn Heisey. Johnson pleaded guilty in June to making a false statement and has since served 30 days in jail.
Heisey, who was falsely accused in letters and e-mails to community members of sexually abusing young boys, filed a similar lawsuit in July.
The Castelbaums, whose lawsuit seeks $1 million in compensatory damages and an equal amount in punitive damages, want "a full measure of justice," said their lawyer, Jonathan Scott Smith.
"They still have these ... lingering, nagging questions about who out there in the public may have been exposed to these, I would say, false and outrageous statements and may have believed them," Smith said. "There's no way to determine how extensive this calculated smear was and how successful it's been."
The letters and accusations against Heisey and the Castelbaums started three years ago, after school officials at Hollifield Station - concerned that Johnson's daughter, a pupil there, might have been abused - contacted local social service workers, according to the lawsuit and previous court testimony.
Those concerns were later proved unfounded, Johnson's lawyer has said.
But within three months of the school's June 2000 report, someone made an "anonymous report" accusing the Castelbaums of child abuse and neglect, and letters and e-mail accusing Heisey of sexually abusing young boys were sent to clergy, school officials and community members, according to the lawsuit and previous court testimony.
In December last year, e-mail accusing Jed Castelbaum of sexually abusing his daughter were sent to Parcel Plus stores in Maryland and Virginia, according to the lawsuit. Castelbaum owns a Parcel Plus store in Ellicott City.
A few weeks later, Johnson admitted to an investigator that he had sent the letters and e-mail and that he had filed the September 2000 report against the Castelbaums, according to the lawsuit.
He also told an investigator that the claims were false, the lawsuit and previous court testimony show.
The fact that Johnson targeted Jed Castelbaum, whose "only connection" to the case was his marriage to Susan Castelbaum, shows "the extent of the maliciousness," Smith said yesterday.
In court in June, Johnson apologized for his actions and said he was "overcome with depression and anxiety" at the time.
Alan Fishbein, who represented Johnson in the criminal case, said yesterday that he had not yet seen the lawsuit and could not comment on it. Johnson could not be reached for comment.