Andover Townsman, Andover, MA


September 12, 2013

Property feud back in court

Rep. Lyons, neighbor back in court

A nearly decade-long, bitter property feud between a state legislator and a neighbor in the Ballardvale section of Andover continues to play out in court.

The neighbors, William and Gail Johnson, are appealing their 2011 convictions for criminally harassing state Rep. Jim Lyons, R-Andover, and his family in 2008. While the Johnsons have both already served jail time for their convictions, they are seeking to get their sentences overturned and clear their names.

The harassment charges — which included a false accusation of child molestation — followed Lyons’ vocal opposition to the Johnsons’ plans to build a 4,500-square-foot home on Reynolds Street on a site that backs up to the legislator’s 12 High Vale Lane home. The saga predates Lyons’ election to the Legislature in 2010.

The Essex County District Attorney’s office has until Oct. 25 to file a response to the Johnsons’ appeals, according to spokeswoman Carrie Kimball-Monahan.

As those appeals play out, the latest volley in the ongoing feud was served last week in Lawrence District Court, with William Johnson being accused by the Lyonses with violating the terms of his probation.

Lawrence District Court Judge Michael Brooks ruled for Johnson, saying that the “indirect contact” he had last month with Lyons’ family did not violate the no-contact order in his probation order.

But Brooks did order Johnson to stay away from his Reynolds Street property until he presents the court with “a plan to minimize contact” with the Lyons family. The court-ordered plan would require Johnson to let the Lyons family know when he expected to be on his land, Brooks said.

“Minimize contact, not eliminate,” Brooks told Johnson. “I’m not saying that the work can’t continue — you can’t be there for any reason.”

In addition to restricting contact with the Lyonses, the Johnsons, under the amended terms of their probation, are also prohibited from traveling on High Vale Lane, where they once lived. When the harassment charges were first brought, the Johnsons lived down the street from the Lyonses at 36 High Vale Lane and could only use the street to access their home. The couple has since moved to Reading.

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