On the day of a special election in New Hampshire in April 2021, Michael Drouin posted a fake advertisement on Craigslist offering a free trailer and listed the phone number of Bill Boyd, a candidate for a state House seat.
Mr. Drouin thought he was playing a harmless practical joke, but it was no laughing matter to Mr. Boyd, a Republican, who told the police that he received dozens of texts and phone calls in under an hour on the morning of April 13, 2021, before he shut off his phone.
Mr. Drouin was indicted in November 2022 on a felony charge of interference with election communications. On Monday, Mr. Drouin, 30, of Merrimack, N.H., pleaded guilty to the reduced charge of creating a false document, an election law offense, admitting that he knowingly interfered with Mr. Boyd’s ability to use his cellphone on Election Day.
The charge is a misdemeanor, not a felony, but it still cost him his right to vote in the state. People who are convicted of a willful violation of the state’s election laws lose their right to vote under the New Hampshire Constitution.
Mr. Drouin told investigators in October 2021 that the false advertisement “was a joke” and that he “meant no harm,” according to a police affidavit in support of an arrest warrant. He also denied that it had anything to do with the special election, calling it “bad timing” and claiming to be a Republican like Mr. Boyd.
Mr. Drouin was a registered Democrat when he spoke to the police, but investigators noted that he switched his party affiliation to Republican in February 2022.
The state attorney general’s office said the stunt could have interfered with Mr. Boyd’s success in the election, which he went on to win, and which was held to fill the seat of the Republican House speaker, Richard Hinch, who died in December 2020 of complications related to Covid-19.
Mr. Drouin would have faced a maximum penalty of seven years in prison and a fine of up to $2,000 if he had been convicted of the felony charge. After he pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor, he was ordered to pay a $250 fine and complete 250 hours of community service, the New Hampshire Department of Justice said in a news release. He was also given a 90-day jail sentence that was suspended for two years, allowing him to walk free on the condition of his good behavior.
Matthew Conley, an assistant state attorney general, said in an email that Mr. Drouin has the right to petition the state to request that his voting rights be restored.
Mr. Drouin initially denied that he created the ad. He later acknowledged having posted it, but told investigators that it was meant as a joke and that he did not think it was a “big deal at the time,” according to the affidavit. He told the police that he ultimately realized he had made a mistake and that he would invite Mr. Boyd out to dinner and did not want to “get hooked in the court system.”
Mr. Boyd, who was elected to a full term in November, said he “experienced distress with my phone going on and off” on the day of the 2021 special election, WMUR-TV reported. He said he needed access to his phone to help get voters get rides to the polls, and to be in touch with his father in an assisted living facility and his sister, who he said had health problems.
“I have not received a verbal apology at any point during this particular process,” Mr. Boyd said in court, according to WMUR, nor had he heard anything from Mr. Drouin that “would indicate any level of remorse.”
Mr. Boyd told investigators that he received a message from Mr. Drouin on Facebook in October 2021. In it, Mr. Drouin wrote that “it was terrible timing with the election, and it’s been bothering me ever since.”
“I should have had more consideration,” he added.
In court on Monday, WMUR reported, Mr. Drouin said his lawyers had advised him against further contact with Mr. Boyd.
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