The top-ranking Republican in the Maryland House of Delegates, Del. Jason Buckel, is facing two charges of criminal harassment, after his estranged wife’s boyfriend alleged the delegate spent months sending him aggressive messages online, according to court records.
Buckel, who represents Allegany County, described the charges as an unfortunate and difficult private matter that spilled out into public view. He provided The Baltimore Sun with a copy of an agreement between his lawyer and the other man to drop the charges. Buckel, in turn, agreed not to pursue any recourse against the other man, who is a trooper with the Maryland State Police.
“The fact that this individual indicated he wants to fully dismiss the charges only a couple days after filing them reflects the merits of the charges,” said Buckel, who also is a lawyer.
Frederick County State’s Attorney Charlie Smith, whose office is handling the case at the request of Allegany County’s prosecutor, said his team would review the request to drop charges. Smith said his office does not automatically decline to prosecute when complainants or victims request that charges be dropped.
“We’ll take that into consideration in making a decision,” he said. “We’ll do our due diligence.”
The trooper who filed the charges against Buckel could not be reached for comment.
The Maryland State Police is not investigating either the delegate or the trooper at this time, according to a spokesman.
The trooper filed an application for statement of charges in Allegany County District Court on Dec. 14. The delegate was charged with one count each of harassment as a course of conduct and one count of harassment by means of electronic communications. Both charges are misdemeanors.
In the document, the trooper detailed an ongoing pattern of Facebook messages sent from the delegate, warning him to stay away from the delegate’s wife and child.
He wrote that Buckel “started to threaten and harass me through [Facebook Messenger] even after being told to stop.”
The man wrote that he began speaking with Buckel’s wife in late 2020, and she told him that her marriage was ending and she planned to move out. Months later in the spring of 2021, she moved to an apartment and the messages from Buckel began, the man wrote in his application for charges.
Over the next several months, the man said Buckel sent him more than 20 messages, including “You’ve made the wrong enemy here [expletive] and you’re going to regret it. I guarantee you” and “You have really opened a can of worms for yourself [expletive]. Keep digging that hole.”
Other messages included: “How afraid of me are you? Don’t ever be around my son again or I will bury you” and “You’ll be lucky to have a job at the grocery store much less a pension by the end of the year. And those close to you? Hahaha.”
By late September, the man said he wrote to Buckel that he would file complaints with the Maryland Bar and the House of Delegates in hopes of getting the messages to stop. When the messages didn’t stop, the man wrote that he’d file criminal charges, as well.
The messages continued into October, November and December. The man wrote in his application for charges on Dec. 14: “I find these messages to be threatening, alarming and harassing and even after being told to stop he would not.”
Buckel said in an interview that the divorce has been “devastating” and it was painful to learn of his estranged wife’s relationship.
Buckel, in addition to being an elected politician, is a lawyer based in Cumberland with the firm Buckel, Levasseur & Pillai. Since April, he’s been the minority leader in the Maryland House of Delegates, responsible for leading the Republican strategy in the legislature.
Buckel’s situation has led to discord within the Republican caucus. Del. Christopher Adams, who served alongside Buckel as the House minority whip, resigned from that position on Monday.
Adams said the charges against Buckel were part of his decision. He plans to challenge Buckel for the top Republican post before lawmakers return to Annapolis in January for a legislative session.
“Our caucus needs leadership who is focused on the task at hand with session just weeks away,” said Adams, who represents the Eastern Shore.
“I hope that he gets through his difficulties ... but in a business setting, I think it’s untenable for a leader having to worry about those sort of things,” Adams continued.
Adams said that in addition to the court case, he questioned the wisdom of Buckel and other Western Maryland Republicans who briefly flirted with advocating for the westernmost counties to secede from Maryland and join West Virginia. The secession talk was an “outrageous position,” Adams said. “It did not demonstrate focus on behalf of the caucus.”
Buckel said Adams never spoke with him about any concerns.
“The terrible situation of my divorce and the relationship that my spouse is having with another individual really isn’t public business,” Buckel said. “It’s upsetting, but this is not something that really reflects any public matters or anything about my position serving the people of Allegany County.”
House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones, a Baltimore County Democrat, could not be reached for comment Tuesday morning. The General Assembly has a joint ethics committee that can confidentially investigate allegations of wrongdoing or ethical violations by delegates and senators.